New Tobacco Products Act

Tobacco products and e-cigarettes are currently governed by the Swiss foodstuffs regulation. As part of the revision of the latter, tobacco and other smoking products shall be separated from the foodstuffs legislation and be transferred into a new, independent Tobacco Products Act (TPA). The TPA is set to enter into force in mid-2022.

The TPA will govern two main categories of products: "Tobacco products" and "e-cigarettes". The category of tobacco products shall comprise tobacco products to be smoked or heated, tobacco products for oral use or snuffing as well as plant-based smoking products. The category of e-cigarettes shall encompass both those with and without nicotine. E-cigarettes without nicotine, however, only fall under the TPA provisions concerning marketing and continue to be governed by foodstuffs law otherwise.

Marketing and advertisement

One key provision of the TPA is the protection against deception from the point of view of the protection of health. It provides that the presentation, labeling and packaging of tobacco products and nicotine-containing e-cigarettes as well as the advertising of them must not deceive consumers. They must not contain any false, inaccurate or incorrect information about the health effects of the product.

Whereas certain products under the TPA are subject to laxer labelling and packaging obligations than others, the general rules on marketing shall be the same for all products covered by the TPA. One important novelty is that the legal age for purchasing tobacco products or e-cigarettes will be harmonized on federal level and defined as 18. Currently, the Cantons have the competence to define the legal age for such purchases. Certain Cantons have already defined 18 as the legal age, whereas others currently only ban the sale to children of under 16.

Not only the sale, but also the advertisement aimed at minors of under 18 years shall continue to be prohibited. Certain forms of previously tolerated advertising are only banned if minors are particularly exposed to them. This is especially true for advertising in free newspapers. Advertising tobacco products and e-cigarettes online will also be prohibited in the future, except on sites where access is charged or reserved for adults. At points of sale, some of the advertising is placed alongside products that are particularly attractive to young people (e.g. candy) or at eye level with the children. To protect this particularly receptive target audience, advertisements next to candy or placed below 1.2 m in height will no longer be allowed.

The current ban on advertisement of tobacco products on TV and radio shall continue to be in force and shall be expanded to e-cigarettes with and without nicotine. Billboard ads, however, will not be prohibited altogether and continue to be under the competence of the Cantons.

International Comparison

All EU Member States ban tobacco advertising in the print media, online, on the radio and on television. All European countries except Germany also have a ban on billboard advertising for tobacco products. With the new TPA, Switzerland will be the country in Europe that least restricts tobacco advertising. On the "Tobacco Control Scale - Europe 2016", Switzerland ranks last in terms of tobacco advertising.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.