What we do
The Swiss Association for Tobacco Control (AT Switzerland) is the center of competence for tobacco prevention in Switzerland. As an umbrella organization for the promotion of non-smoking, AT Switzerland was founded in 1973 and today comprises over 50 organizational members. These include national and cantonal health leagues, organizations from the public and private health sectors as well as cantonal specialist agencies. At the same time, the Swiss Association for Tobacco Control is a professional organization. This dual function enables the coordination of the diverse activities of the members in the promotion of non-smoking.
... offers its members a broad network of experts and specialists for the dissemination and acquisition of expertise on tobacco control and prevention.
... is committed to a sustainable, healthy and smoke-free Switzerland through evidence-based services and the networking of key stakeholders.
... focuses on the structural conditions (prevention of addiction) and at the same time offers the population a hand in combating and preventing addiction.
... is politically independent, approaches public institutions in a constructive but critical manner and is independent of the tobacco and nicotine industry.
AT Switzerland works on behalf of and in consultation with its member organizations to strengthen the structural conditions necessary to reduce tobacco and nicotine consumption.
AT Switzerland carries out its activities in four business areas: AT Switzerland advocates on behalf of and in consultation with its member organzsations for increased tobacco control (advocacy), develops knowledge bases (knowledge management), informs the public and interested groups through appropriate channels (communication) and strengthens the networking and coordination of tobacco control stakeholders (networking and coordination).
The four strategic fields of action
Denormalization of tobacco consumption
Due to decades of advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as aggressive and often hidden political lobbying, the tobacco and nicotine industry has succeeded in convincing a large part of the population as well as politicians that the consumption of harmful and deadly tobacco and nicotine products is normal and socially acceptable in Switzerland. In too many places, such as restaurant terraces, even at hospital entrances, etc., it is still "normal" for people to smoke without sufficient consideration for the wishes and health of others.
Denormalization also includes the exclusion of the tobacco industry from the discussion on tobacco control in the sense of Art. 5.3. FCTC, as it has repeatedly lied as well as deceived citizens. The tobacco industry tries to position itself as a public health partner by launching new tobacco and nicotine products, arguing that it offers a lower-risk alternative to smokers who do not want to or cannot give up their tobacco use. But the tobacco companies are only concerned with securing their sales and increasing their profits.
Youth protection and prevention of initiation
The vast majority of users of tobacco and nicotine products started in childhood and adolescence. The brain develops until the age of 25. Psychotropic substances have a particularly strong effect during this phase and consolidate long-term dependence, which is why the tobacco industry primarily targets children and adolescents with its advertising and marketing. With half of smokers dying prematurely from smoking, the industry needs to constantly renew its base of nicotine-addicted consumers to maintain its business model and profits.
It is important to change young people's behaviour and convince them not to use tobacco and nicotine products. Knowledge transfer alone is not enough to achieve this. Only a complete ban on all forms of advertising and marketing – especially digital marketing – and sponsorship will effectively protect children and young people from starting to smoke.
Further protective measures that have a positive impact on young people and reduce consumption must be urgently introduced and strengthened. These include all measures that discourage young people from continuing to smoke; measures that prevent smoking and vaping initiation, such as banning tobacco and nicotine product sales to minors; better education on health harms; and raising prices, including through higher taxes and levies.
Encouragement to quit smoking
Quitting smoking is not easy: nicotine is a drug and nicotine use is an addiction. Despite great efforts, smoking has not decreased in this country. On the contrary, the prevalence of smokers is not decreasing, rather their number is increasing.
Many smokers have tried to quit with varying degrees of success. We need to encourage and help them on this path. Effective and scientifically proven smoking cessation measures must be strengthened and financially supported by social health insurers.
Besides additional incentives to quit smoking, structural measures must be drastically strengthened. For example, taxes on all tobacco and nicotine products must be significantly increased and neutral (brand-free) packaging must be introduced.
Protecting the population from passive smoking
The law on protection from passive smoking came into force in 2010. It is one of the few structural measures that Switzerland has adopted in the last 20 years. Nevertheless, the protection came late compared to other countries. Today, this law, which was weak from the start, is already outdated and wholly insufficient.
The protection against passive smoking is threefold:
First, smoking must be banned in all indoor spaces accessible to the public.
Second, smoking must be denormalised, including in many public places where it is still permitted today: on sports fields, in front of the doors of hospitals and homes, at bus stops and railway stations, as well as on restaurant terraces and private balconies, where today no consideration is given to non-smokers. The freedom to smoke is still normal in many places today. Protecting the public from smoking must become normal.
Third, special protection applies to children and young people. There must be an absolute ban on smoking around them, be it in playgrounds, on the street, in cars or at home.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights additional risks of passive smoking. A cloud of smoke or e-cigarettes contains aerosols that escape from the lungs of the smoker and reach another person. It must be assumed that such aerosols from a Covid-19 infected person contain viruses and infect others.