The small chamber on Thursday approved the Federal Council's proposed tightening of the Tobacco Products Act in a key point. Specifically, advertising in press products is to be banned - unless they are intended mainly for the foreign market or exclusively for people working in the tobacco industry.
This was decided by the Council by 22 votes to 17 with 3 abstentions. A center-left majority prevailed. The previous committee had wanted to weaken the ban. Advertising in publications that are mainly sold to adults via subscriptions should remain permitted.
Different interpretation of the Constitution
The debate on this key point of the bill was heated at times. According to commission spokesman Damian Müller (FDP/LU), a strict interpretation of the constitutional article would make any advertisement that young people could see unconstitutional. However, the initiators had not interpreted the ban absolutely, but relatively. Therefore, there is room for maneuver.
Esther Friedli (SVP/SG) recalled that other popular initiatives had also not been implemented and referred to the discussions surrounding the SVP immigration initiative. Andrea Gmür-Schönenberger (center/LU) countered: Even if the parliament had made mistakes then, it was important not to make the same mistake again.
"If the constitution is changed, then we have to implement it," said Pirmin Bischof (center/SO). The wording of the initiative was absolutely unambiguous: "The federal government shall prohibit any kind of advertising for tobacco products that reaches children and adolescents.
Initiators for strict implementation
Hans Stöckli (SP/BE), one of the initiators of the tobacco advertising ban initiative, criticized the lax tobacco advertising regulations in Switzerland. If the initiative was implemented consistently, hundreds of thousands of people would soon smoke less. This would save billions of francs.
"Most of them start smoking as teenagers," said Maya Graf (Grüne/BL). Therefore, she said, tobacco advertising to young people should be banned. Health Minister Alain Berset also promoted strict implementation of the initiative.
The Council of States did not follow the Federal Council in all points and partially weakened the bill. For example, the sale of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes by mobile sales staff in public places that can be visited by minors should not be banned. Here, a center-right majority prevailed by 22 votes to 18.
Direct, personally executed sales promotion for cigars and cigarillos by means of tastings and customer promotions should also remain possible - even in places to which minors have access. This decision was made by the Council of States with 23 to 17 votes.
In addition, tobacco advertising is to continue to be permitted in places open to the public, provided that it is neither visible nor accessible to minors. The Council of States also regulated the sponsoring of events in the same way. It decided this by 25 votes to 14 with 2 abstentions.
No obligation to report expenses
There was no opposition in the small chamber to further amendments to the Federal Council's draft. For example, the requirements for the age verification system for online sales and advertising are to be defined more precisely. In addition, the obligation to report expenditure on advertising, sales promotion and sponsorship for tobacco product manufacturers was deleted, as this was not a concern of the initiative.
In the overall vote, the Council of States adopted the partial revision of the Tobacco Products Act by 37 votes to 3 with 2 abstentions. The bill goes to the National Council.
The plan is to bring the new regulations into force from 2026. In February 2022, the people and the cantons approved the popular initiative "Yes to protecting children and young people from tobacco advertising. (SDA)