Swiss Voters Approve Virtual Ban on Tobacco Advertising | Business and Economy News

The Swiss voted on Sunday to strengthen their notoriously lax tobacco laws by banning virtually all advertising for dangerous products, with nearly 57% of voters and 16 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons backing the near total ban, according to final results.

“We are extremely happy. People have understood that health is more important than economic interests,” Stefanie De Borba of the Swiss Cancer League told AFP news agency.

Switzerland lags far behind most wealthy countries in restricting tobacco advertising – a situation largely blamed on substantial lobbying by some of the world’s largest tobacco companies headquartered in the country.

Currently, most tobacco advertising is legal nationwide, except on television and radio, and when specifically targeting minors.

Some Swiss cantons have introduced tougher regional legislation and a new national law is pending, but activists who forced the issue to a vote under Switzerland’s direct democracy system have demanded much stricter rules.

Opponents of the initiative, including the Swiss government and parliament, argued that it went too far.

The politically correct “dictatorship”

“Today we are talking about cigarettes, but we will soon be talking about alcohol and meat”, warned Philippe Bauer, right-wing parliamentarian from the Liberal Party, decrying “this dictatorship of political correctness, where everything must be regulated”. .

His concerns echo those expressed by Philip Morris International (PMI), the world’s largest tobacco company, which, like British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco, is headquartered in Switzerland and helped fund the ‘No’ campaign. .

“It’s a slippery slope when it comes to individual freedom,” a spokesperson for the Swiss section of PMI told AFP.

He decried Sunday’s result and urged parliament to show “restraint and moderation” when writing the decision into law.

Jean-Paul Humair, who runs a Geneva addiction prevention centre, hailed Sunday’s victory as “a very important step” in the fight against smoking and flatly rejected the industry’s arguments.

“It’s not a question of freedom… It’s an illusion of freedom,” he told AFP, stressing that tobacco use is seriously addictive.

“Kills half of all users”

“No other consumer product kills half of all users.”

Campaigners say lax advertising laws have hampered efforts to reduce smoking rates in the Alpine nation of 8.6million, where more than a quarter of adults use tobacco products. There are approximately 9,500 tobacco-related deaths each year.

Opponents of the initiative, including the Swiss government and parliament, argued it went too far [Valentin Flauraud/AFP]

Pascal Diethelm, head of tobacco control group OxyRomandie, told AFP that Sunday’s vote should help lead to a “paradigm shift” for federal authorities.

“(They) have accepted for too long that health prevention policy should be placed under the supervision of big business,” they said.

The tobacco industry contributes around six billion Swiss francs ($6.5 billion) to the economy each year – one percent of Switzerland’s gross domestic product – and accounts for some 11,500 jobs.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset, meanwhile, told reporters that the near-ban could take time to take effect.

“It really doesn’t seem possible that it could come into effect this year,” he said.

The new restrictions on tobacco advertising could possibly be added to a new tobacco law which is already due to come into force next year and which, for the first time, will set a national minimum age for the purchase of products. tobacco.

Animal testing

Other questions about Sunday’s poll did not fare as well in the polls.

Nearly 80% of voters rejected a call to ban all animal testing.

All political parties, parliament and government had opposed the initiative, arguing that it went too far and would have disastrous consequences for medical research.

In another animal-themed vote, residents of the northern canton of Basel-Stadt also overwhelmingly rejected an offer to grant non-human primates some of the same basic human rights as their human cousins, with almost 75% opposed.

More than 55% of voters also rejected a national government plan to provide additional public funding to media companies, which have seen their advertising revenues evaporate in recent years.

Nearly 44% of eligible Swiss voters turned out on Sunday, not unusually low in a country where such popular votes take place every few months.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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