Switzerland: Tobacco Companies Circumvent the Ban on Tobacco Promotional Offers

With the imminent arrival of the new Swiss law banning certain tobacco promotions, cigarette manufacturers, such as Philip Morris, are preparing measures to prevent the law’s intended effects. By introducing packs of 25 cigarettes sold at an advantageous price, they aim to retain smokers while maintaining the affordability of their products for younger people.

In Switzerland, the smoking prevalence of people aged 15 and over remains at a high level (24%), according to figures from the Swiss Health Survey (ESS). In 2020, a study by the University of Geneva showed that young Swiss people were exposed to much higher levels of tobacco advertising than their counterparts in countries with stricter regulations. [1]

Certain manufacturers adopt measures to reduce the effectiveness of the law

Switzerland's new anti-tobacco law, which comes into force in the fall of 2024, aims to reduce consumption by banning certain promotions and severely restricting advertising for tobacco products. The main objective is to reduce the exposure of young people to tobacco advertising and to reduce the overall appeal of these products.

As this law approaches, cigarette manufacturers have reacted quickly to retain their customers. New “big packs”, containing 25 or more cigarettes instead of the usual 20, are offered at a reduced price per unit. For example, the Parisienne brand is sold for CHF 8.80 per pack of cigarettes while the pack of 25 is sold for CHF 9, thus offering a unit discount of 18%. [2] This strategy is particularly effective at dissuading smokers from quitting, but it also makes the products more affordable for younger people. The approach could thus help limit the new legislation’s effectiveness, because price reductions encourage smokers to buy more cigarettes. Additionally, expanding to different package sizes opens the market up to a wider variety of current and potential consumers.

Anti-tobacco legislation still very permissive

Compared to other European countries, Switzerland has very weak legislation in the fight against smoking, particularly in terms of banning advertising and the promotion of tobacco. The measures announced were obtained after a major battle on the part of health advocates, but they remain very timid compared to internationally adopted practices. The country is in fact one of the few countries in the world not to have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). [3] According to the latest Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index, Switzerland is ranked second among the countries most influenced by the tobacco industry. This interference with decision-makers results in particular from the Swiss presence of the head offices of two of the manufacturers: Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International and the proximity that provides them to Swiss decision-makers.

Added to this is the absence of legislation prohibiting donations to political parties. Thus in 2023, two political parties, the Democratic Union of the Center (UDC) and the Liberal-Radical Party (PLR), received funding from Philip Morris for the National Council elections. [4] These two parties opposed in February 2024 the proposed ban on advertising for tobacco products, although it was strongly supported by a popular initiative and numerous health associations. The bill was ultimately rejected by the National Council.

Original article published under: https://www.generationsanstabac.org/actualites/suisse-les-cigarettiers-contournent-linterdiction-doffres-promotionnelles-sur-le-tabac/

[1] Reiso.org, La pub pour le tabac augmente sa consommation, Reiso, published 31 January 2022, consulted 20 June 2024

[2] 20Minutes, La parade des cigarettiers face à la nouvelle loi: les «big packs», 20Minutes, published 16 June 2024, consulted 20 June 2024

[3] Génération sans tabac, Suisse : La nouvelle loi sur le tabac insatisfaisante au regard de la santé publique, GST, published 24 September 2021, consulted 18 June 2024

[4] Génération sans tabac, Suisse : deux partis politiques financés par Philip Morris, GST, published 19 October 2023, consulted 20 June 2024

Related articles