Comprehensive prohibition of advertising, promotion and sponsoring for tobacco and nicotine products!

Open letter to Swiss Federal Councillors Ueli Maurer (President of the Confederation), Alain Berset (Head of FDHA) and Ignazio Cassis (Head of FDFA)

Subject: ‘Harm reduction - not an effective tobacco control strategy’ or termination of the FDFA’s sponsorship agreement with Philip Morris at the 2020 World Exposition in Dubai

Berne, 9 August 2019

Dear Federal Councillors

We are very grateful that the planned sponsoring agreement with Philip Morris will not be executed or has been terminated. The sponsorship of the Swiss Pavilion in Dubai 2020 by the Lausanne-based international tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI), which was announced in July, is incomprehensible and unacceptable to our professional societies. Below is a brief explanation  why our country should generally refuse to support the tobacco industry:

  • The machinations of this industry stand in stark contrast to the interests of the Swiss population, whose health it harms. In addition to much suffering and disease, it causes our health system enormous avoidable costs of several billion Swiss francs annually, which far exceed the dubious benefits for the economy.
  • State cooperation with tobacco companies contradicts the intention of the Federal Council to have Parliament ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) signed by the Swiss Minister of Health Pascal Couchepin in 2004. The FCTC stipulates that advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco and nicotine products are to be comprehensively prohibited, including international sponsorship, and that measures are to be taken to prevent their infiltration by industry. Parliament is currently working on the Tobacco Products Act, which should allow the ratification of the FCTC.
  • State subsidies to the multinational tobacco industries, which would have been officially sanctioned with this sponsorship agreement, contradict Switzerland’s efforts to contribute to sustainable development by promoting international cooperation, in particular between the Red Cross organisations and the World Health Organisation.

This letter is accompanied by a more detailed explanation of why the Federal Council should not join forces with the tobacco industry in the future (see online edition of the Schweizerische
Ärztezeitung [Swiss medical journal]). Philip Morris’s “harm reduction” strategy is an unsuitable way to combat the tobacco epidemic, as you can see from the accompanying article “Harm reduction - not an effective tobacco control strategy” recently published in the Swiss medical journal.1
We thank you for your attention to this matter and are confident that the Federal Parliament together with far-sighted authorities and politicians, will protect our minors and issue an effective Tobacco Products Act and ratify the WHO Tobacco Framework Convention.

Yours sincerely

On behalf of the Swiss Society of Pulmonology (SGP),
the Swiss Society of Pediatric Pulmonology (SGPP), the Swiss Society of Cardiology (SGK),
the Swiss Society of Pediatric Cardiology (SGPK),
the Swiss Society of Medical Oncology (SGMO ),
the Swiss Pediatric Oncology Group (SPOG)
and the Cancer Research Switzerland (KFS)

Prof. J. Barben*, PD Dr. M. Schuurmans*,

Dr. A. Zürcher*, Dr. R. Kälin*, Dr. T. Schmid*, Dr. D. Stambach (President SGPK),

Prof. C. Barazzone (President SGPP),

Prof. J. Hammer (Past President SGPP),

Prof. G. Pedrazzini (President SGK),

Prof. L. Nicod (President SGP),

Prof. M. Borner (President SGP),

Prof. R. Ammann (President SPOG),

Prof. emer. T. Cerny (President KFS)

*    Members of the Special Interest Group Prevention (Tobacco/Environment) of the SGP

1    Barben, J., Schuurmans, M., Zürcher, A. et al. Harm reduction – keine wirksame Strategie zur Tabakbekämpfung. 2019;100 (31–32):1041–4.

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