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Swiss parliament rejects tobacco advertising ban

According to a study published by the Swiss federal office of public health last December1, two thirds of the Swiss public were in favour of banning tobacco advertising, everywhere except at the point of sale. 58% were even in favour of a blanket ban, while one in six wanted to see cigarette price increases. Switzerland’s parliament does not appear to share this view.

A plan put forward by Federal Councillor Alain Berset to restrict tobacco advertising was rejected by parliament today by 101 votes to 75. Those against the plan think it went too far and said there was nothing that proved that banning advertising would reduce tobacco consumption. In addition, they thought a federal ban limited the power of cantons to introduce stricter rules.

A 2013 World Health Organisation report2 said “complete bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship decrease tobacco use”. The WHO report also said that the best estimate is that the tobacco industry spends tens of billions of US dollars worldwide each year on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. In the United States alone, the tobacco industry spends more than US$ 10 billion annually.

Berset’s proposed rules would have banned advertising in public spaces, in cinemas, in the press and on the internet. Distribution of free samples and some promotional price reductions would have also been banned. According to a WHO report these practices are banned in Spain, France, Sweden, Holland, Portugal, the UK and a number of other European countries, but not Switzerland.

Corine Kibora, spokesperson for Addiction Suisse described parliament’s decision as “disappointing” and “proof that the arguments of lobbyists and the economy triumphed over the public’s health”, while adding that as the trend towards favouring individual choice over collective responsibility takes over we seem to have forgotten the central point: business and advertisers are driven to make sales.

According to Swiss federal office of public health, Swiss smokers dropped from 33% of the population in 2001 to 25% in 2015. However, since 2011, the number of smokers has stayed stubbornly high. In addition, it calculates the annual cost of tobacco at tens of billions of francs per year of which CHF 1.7 billion goes on medical treatments and CHF 3.9 billion on compensation for work absenteeism and invalidity. On the other hand, tobacco tax only brings in CHF 2 billion annually.

Iraqi mission staff fined over cigarette smuggling

Two officials working at the Iraqi diplomatic mission in Geneva have received stiff fines for a huge cigarette smuggling scam. Some 600,000 packets of cigarettes were sold on the black market in northwest France.

The two Iraqi permanent mission staff members were fined CHF170,000 ($177,000) and CHF120,000 for the cigarette smuggling ring, which owed CHF2.4 million in unpaid tax.

The Federal Customs Administration on Monday confirmed a SonntagsZeitung report which stated that they had abused privileges normally reserved for diplomats and illegally resold duty-free cigarettes in France over a three-year period.

As smuggling has a seven-year statute of limitations, almost a third of the volume could not be sanctioned. The federal authorities also rejected a request from the Iraqi mission to reduce the fine of one of the employees, who has since been fired.

According to the customs office, the smugglers ordered the cigarettes from a firm in northern Germany which specialises in duty-free deliveries for diplomats, embassies and international organisations. They were then sent to a delivery firm in French-speaking Switzerland.

The goods were subsequently transported to a rented warehouse in Ferney-Voltaire in France, not far from Geneva Airport. From there the cigarettes were sent to the city of Rennes in northwest France, where they were resold on the streets.

The smugglers ordered cigarettes not only on behalf of the Iraqi mission, but also on behalf of the permanent missions of Hong Kong, Bahrein, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Swiss police were tipped off when the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce complained to the Swiss authorities that unknown individuals had ordered cigarettes on their behalf.

International tribunal upholds states’ rights to protect health through tobacco control

GENEVA, 12 JULY 2016 – An international tribunal has upheld the sovereign authority of states to protect health through tobacco control. The World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has confirmed that tobacco control measures applied by the Government of Uruguay did not violate the terms of an investment agreement between Uruguay and Switzerland, under which the dispute was initiated.

The decision was informed by a joint submission or amicus brief, from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Secretariat. The brief provided an overview of global tobacco control, including the role of the WHO FCTC. It set out the public health evidence underlying Uruguay’s tobacco packaging and labelling laws and detailed state practice in implementing similar measures.

The Tribunal accepted submission of the amicus brief on the basis that it provided an independent perspective on the matters in the dispute and contributed expertise from “qualified agencies”.1 The Tribunal subsequently relied on the brief at several points of the factual and legal analysis in their decision. 2

In accepting submission of the amicus brief the Tribunal noted that given the “public interest involved in this case” the amicus brief would “support the transparency of the proceeding”.3. Now that the decision of the Tribunal has been released, the WHO and WHO FCTC Secretariat make available below their submissions to the Tribunal.

The tribunal’s award affirms that Parties to the WHO FCTC can confidently implement the Convention and its Guidelines to protect present and future generations from the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption.


1. Philip Morris Brand Sàrl (Switzerland), Philip Morris Products S.A. (Switzerland) and Abal Hermanos S.A. (Uruguay) v. Oriental Republic of Uruguay (ICSID Case No. ARB/10/7), Procedural Order No. 3 (February 17, 2015) at paras. 25 and 28.

2. Philip Morris Brand Sàrl (Switzerland), Philip Morris Products S.A. (Switzerland) and Abal Hermanos S.A. (Uruguay) v. Oriental Republic of Uruguay (ICSID Case No. ARB/10/7), Decision on the Merits (July 8, 2016)

3. Abal Hermanos S.A. (Uruguay) v. Oriental Republic of Uruguay (ICSID Case No. ARB/10/7), Procedural Order No. 3 (February 17, 2015) at para. 28

Senate rejects advertising ban

A general ban on tobacco advertising called for by Health Minister Alain Berset was rejected in the senate today, international news site of National Broadcasting Corporation,, reported.

The cabinet argued in Parliament that advertising for tobacco products had a large impact on young people but opponents of the ban argued that no proof was given that a ban on advertising would stop people from smoking, the site reported. commented that the senate had voted “to protect a free market economy, rather than support health concerns.”

No general ban on tobacco advertising

A ban on advertising tobacco products in Switzerland has been rejected by the Swiss senate, who voted on Wednesday to protect a free market economy, rather than support health concerns.

The ban had been called for by the Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset, who said in Parliament that smoking was damaging not only from a health perspective, but also socially and financially.

The cabinet had argued that adverts had a particularly large impact on young people. According to a German study, the risk of young people taking up smoking increased by 46% if they were exposed to adverts for tobacco.

Opponents of the ban argued there was no proof that an advertising ban would stop people smoking.

Worldwide more than five million people die every year as a result of tobacco consumption. In Switzerland that number is 9,500.

Protecting youngsters

The nationwide ban on selling cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors was undisputed, with a majority of parliamentarians explicitly expressing their support for laws protecting children and young people.

In this respect, it was argued, a legal basis is needed for test purchases to ensure shops aren’t selling tobacco to underage customers. A majority also agreed the importance of an existing ban on tobacco adverts directed at minors.

Regional differences

Tobacco advertising is already banned on the radio and on TV in Switzerland, but in 15 cantons billboard advertising is also prohibited.

In ten cantons cigarettes cannot be sold to under 18s, but in other parts of the country they can be sold to 16-year-olds.

In eastern Switzerland, it’s traditional to see children lighting up as part of a special event that centres around a regional cattle show.

Swiss boffins create cannabis e-cigarette

Swiss scientists have created a cannabis e-cigarette, intended for medical use, that is safer than a joint and better than a pill, they said on Thursday.

“Therapeutic cannavaping”, they argued, should be examined as an alternative to existing medical treatments which can come in the form of a syrup, pill, mouth spray, skin patch, suppository, or a plain-old spliff.

The team copied an improvised method popular among marijuana afficionados using butane gas to extract and concentrate cannabinoids — the active, high-causing compounds of cannabis.

“We were inspired by what is done illegally, underground, on the web fora,” study co-author Vincent Varlet, a biochemist and toxicologist from the University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, told AFP.

“Normally, they use this form of cannabinoids to get high. Based on what is done illegally, we found that it could be interesting” for the medical field.

The method yields super-concentrated “dabs” of butane hash oil (BHO) comprising about 70-80 percent THCa, the precursor of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive ingredient. THCa is transformed into THC at high heat.

Usually the dabs are burnt and the fumes inhaled. But for the study, the team mixed their activated BHO paste into commercially-available e-cigarette liquid at different concentrations — three, five or ten percent.

They then put “vaping machines” to work: sucking at the e-cigarettes and blowing out vapour, which was measured for its THC content, according to results published in the nature journal Scientific Reports.

“Cannavaping appears to be a gentle, efficient, user-friendly and safe alternative method for cannabis smoking for medical cannabis delivery,” the team concluded with a nod to “the creativity of cannabis users”.

It was also more reliable than consuming cannabinoid pills or foods which are poorly and erratically absorbed, said Varlet.

Safer pain relief?

Battery-powered e-cigarettes heat up liquids containing artificial flavourings, with or without nicotine, to release a vapour which is inhaled and exhaled much like smoke.

They are touted as safer than the real thing, and an aide for giving up cancer-causing tobacco — which is also an ingredient of the traditional cannabis joint.

Cannabis-infused e-liquids are advertised online, along with a rash of recipes for making your own.

Medical marijuana can be legally prescribed in some countries for pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea reduction or the relief of muscle spasms.

A challenge, said Varlet, was to keep cannabis intended for therapeutic use out of the hands of recreational high-seekers.

One way to do that was to have legal drugs with microdoses of cannabinoids.

“We have calculated that to have the same dose of what is present in a real cigarette joint… with tobacco, we have to vape between 80-90 puffs” of the 10-percent BHO liquid, said Varlet.

“Eighty puffs constitutes a rebuttal to getting high,” he added, when a few drags from a joint will do.

“The take-home message of our article is that vaping is less harmful than smoking, so you can be sure that cannavaping is less harmful than cannabis smoking for medical purposes,” said Varlet, adding there was no plan to patent or sell the product.

“Today, we have set the cat among the pigeons. This is just the first step, and we need to see how the scientific community is going to welcome this kind of possibility.”

Benefits of smoking bans on preterm and early-term births

A natural experimental design in Switzerland



Birth outcomes are relevant for future children’s heath. Capitalising on a natural experimental design in Switzerland, we evaluated how regional smoking bans introduced at different time points affected birth outcomes, including preterm and early-term births.


We used birth registry data of all singleton neonates born in Switzerland (2007–2012). We developed canton-specific interrupted time-series followed by random meta-analysis to evaluate the benefits of smoking bans on preterm (<37 gestational weeks) and early-term (37–38 gestational weeks) births. Heterogeneity across type of ban and contextual characteristics was explored through metaregression. A time-to-event approach was used for evaluating duration of pregnancy under the smoking bans and effects, taking into account individual maternal factors.


We observed a decrease in the risk of preterm birth of 3.6% (95% CI, −9.3% to 2.5%), and early-term birth of 5.0% (95% CI −7.5% to −2.5%). Results showed a clear dose–response relationship. Greater risk reductions were obtained for preterm births in areas with more comprehensive bans (−6.8%; 95% CI −12.1% to 0.1%), and for pregnancies with the longest gestational time under smoking bans (HR, 0.991; 95% CI 0.984 to 0.997 per 10% increase in duration). Benefits were unequal across outcomes and characteristics of cantons and mothers.


Smoking bans resulted in improved birth outcomes in Switzerland with cantons that adopted more comprehensive smoking bans achieving greater benefits. Early-term births constitute a previously ignored though important group.