The Swiss voted on Sunday to tighten their notoriously lax tobacco laws by banning virtually all advertising of the hazardous products.
Nearly 57 percent of voters and 16 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons backed the near-total tobacco advertising ban, a final tally of votes showed.
Switzerland lags far behind most wealthy nations in restricting tobacco advertising — a situation widely blamed on hefty lobbying by some of the world’s biggest tobacco companies headquartered in the country.
Some Swiss cantons have introduced stricter regional legislation and a new national law is pending but the campaigners who forced the issue to a vote under Switzerland’s direct democracy system demanded far tighter rules.
Opponents of the initiative, which include the Swiss government and parliament, had argued that it goes too far.
“It annoys me to live in a society… with this dictatorship of the politically correct, where everything has to be regulated,” he told the RTS broadcaster.
“This is a slippery slope as far as individual freedom is concerned,” a spokesman for PMI’s Swiss section told AFP, decrying Sunday’s result.
“A total ban on advertising for legal products is contrary to the freedom of trade and industry enshrined in the Constitution.”
“This is not a question of freedom… It is an illusion of freedom,” he told AFP, pointing out that tobacco use creates severe dependency.
Campaigners say lax advertising laws have stymied efforts to bring down smoking rates in the Alpine nation of 8.6 million people, where more than a quarter of adults consume tobacco products. There are around 9,500 tobacco-linked deaths each year.
That law, which Swiss lawmakers voted through last September after years of debate, for the first time sets a nationwide minimum age for the purchase of tobacco — at 18.
Other issues on Sunday’s ballot did not fare as well in the polls.
All political parties, parliament and the government had opposed the initiative, arguing it went too far and would have dire consequences for medical research.
Swiss authorities also stressed the country already has among the world’s strictest laws regulating animal testing.
More than 55 percent of voters also rejected a plan by the national government to provide additional state funding to media companies, which have seen their advertising revenues evaporate in recent years.