Report: tobacco adverts target young Swiss

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Caroline Bishop - [email protected]
Report: tobacco adverts target young Swiss
CIPRET wants Switzerland to adopt the WHO's recommended global ban on tobacco advertising. Photo: CIPRET

During the course of an average weekend a young person in Romandie is exposed to pro-smoking publicity 68 times, according to a new study which reveals the marketing arsenal used by tobacco companies in the region.


The survey, carried out by the Lausanne-based Information Centre for the Prevention of Smoking (CIPRET) and released on Thursday, found that cigarette advertising is present in more than 80 percent of newsagents and service stations and 84 percent of bars, cafes and nightclubs.  

Tobacco companies advertised at 34 cultural and sporting events in Romandie, mostly music festivals, and on 22 major brand websites, of which half were aimed at minors.

And traditional advertising such as billposters and adverts in the press were just “the tip of the iceberg of a larger and more complex strategy,” said CIPRET in the report, the first of its kind of Switzerland.

Companies are using numerous different ways of contacting consumers and employing new marketing techniques that are far more subtle and sophisticated than traditional advertising, it said, including using experiential marketing to offer exclusive experiences to potential customers and gather data.

Speaking to news agency ATS, CIPRET’s project lead Michela Canevascini said: “The tobacco industry will send a promoter into bars to push a competition. They will collect personal information which then allows the company to send out information or personalized invitations for private events.”

Marketing is principally aimed at young people, said the report, either by targeting places where they are likely to be, or using language and imagery that appeal to them, such as parties, holidays and the notions of success and freedom.

“The tobacco industry is looking to project a young, dynamic, cool image,” said Canevascini, who would like to see Switzerland adopt the ban on tobacco advertising recommended by the World Health Organization.

“Countries that have adopted the ban, like France, have seen around a seven percent decrease in smoking,” she said.

However the initial proposal for a new Swiss law, currently in progress, is judged insufficient by CIPRET.

Aimed at banning cigarette advertising in mass media such as newspapers and magazines, cinemas and on-street billposters, it doesn’t, however, concern point-of-sale advertising or event sponsorship.  

“We are going to create a new law riddled with holes,” said Canevascini.

Switzerland is the only European country which allows tobacco advertising in the media, and one of the few to allow billposting in public spaces.

It also places no limits on the amount of tobacco-related sponsorship at any given cultural or sporting event.

Smoking kills more than 9,000 people in Switzerland every year.

The country is home to the headquarters of several major tobacco companies including Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco Switzerland, both based in Lausanne, and Japan Tobacco International in Geneva.

According to the federal statistics office, 28 percent of the Swiss population were smokers in 2012.

The number of passive smokers decreased from 26 percent in 2002 to six percent in 2012, mainly due to the introduction of a ban on smoking in public places in 2010.



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