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Switzerland criticised for poor efforts to prevent young smokers

Switzerland is at the bottom of the class in Europe when it comes to preventing young people from smoking. It is the only country, apart from Kosovo, that does not have a national minimum age for the purchase of these products. 

What’s more, the tobacco and nicotine industry has updated its range of products and now offers new flavoured products that appeal to young people, particularly because of their colourful packaging, the Swiss Association for the Prevention of Tobacco Addiction said in a press release on Tuesday. 

Not only does Switzerland set no age limit for their purchase at national level, it has also set no limits for flavours and practically none for advertising. Age restrictions are imposed at cantonal level with most cantons applying a minimum age of between 16 and 18 for buying tobacco products. 

The association says it is imperative to protect children and young people from industry manipulation and to prevent children from starting to use the products. 

As part of World No Tobacco Day this year, on May 31, the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) says it will provide a counter-marketing campaign and empower young people to engage in the fight against Big Tobacco. 

Two-thirds of daily smokers started before the age of 20. In Switzerland, 51% of 15-year-old boys and 35% of girls of the same age have already used an electronic cigarette at least once. 

In addition, the “new” products of electronic cigarettes and oral tobacco are mainly used by people who have never used nicotine-based products, as the producers themselves admit. 

New forms of advertising 

In addition to traditional paper and poster advertising, the tobacco industry is investing heavily in new forms of advertising, such as social media influencers. Celebrities and events benefit from generous sponsorship, the association said. 

Marketing in outlets frequented by children is also in full swing. Tobacco and nicotine products are placed near sweets, snacks or sugary drinks, it noted. 

All of Switzerland’s neighbours have set the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products at 18, it said. In Germany, Italy and France, the measure has been in effect for more than ten years. 

The association is calling for a similar measure to be taken in Switzerland. It is also demanding a ban on flavourings and colourings, as has been the case throughout the European Union and the UK since May 20 this year. Advertising, sponsorship and promotion must also be banned, it says.