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Sign on Letter to the President of the Swiss Confederation

Read the sign on letter from 113 signatory organizations here.

Photos for Media Use from Press Conference here.

View Press Conference powerpoint.

Overview of Press Conference

Pascal Diethelm (President, Oxy-Suisse)
– The new Swiss tobacco control law will change nothing. The draft law is not compatible with the FCTC. Because of it, tobacco prevalence will be kept at the same level for the next 40 years.
– Switzerland is acting as a sanctuary for the industry.

Laurence Fehlmann Rielle (Member of the Swiss National Council) unofficial translation
– Although Switzerland has taken bold measures to reduce risks of addiction to other drugs, it is still far behind the times in its efforts to combat addiction to tobacco.
– FCTC ratification would help progress tobacco in Switzerland.
– Because of strong pressure from the lobbying of tobacco companies, the Parliament has rejected a law project that was already weak, notably with respect to restrictions on publicity and sponsorship.  Now it is considering one that is even weaker.
– There is  a ray of hope: a recent motion to prohibit tobacco advertising was only defeated by a narrow margin, which means that political will to tackle the issue is growing, but still not sufficient to make significant progress.
– Polls show that most of the public supports a ban on tobacco advertisement, which will help put pressure on politicians.  As Pascal Diethelm has shown, the underestimation of the prevalence of tobacco use in Switzerland is another drawback:  more accurate figures that showed the true prevalence would pressure politicians to address the issue. I have requested a review of the methods for determining prevalence, and am waiting for an answer.
– Fortunately, we have political tools in Switzerland to counter this block in parliament. Health advocates in Swiss civil society are mounting a popular initiative (referendum) to demand a ban on advertising to the young.  This will take a year or a year and a half to develop.
– A final opportunity is the federal elections next year, this offers the opportunity to convince new Parliamentarians to put tobacco control higher on the political agenda.
– (from Q&A) JTI gives money to social foundations to gain entry in Geneva.

Professor Bettina Borish (Director, World Federation of Public Health Associations)
– Health is politics. It is one of the most political topics I can imagine.
– We have the tools, we know how to use anti-tobacco strategies.
– The tobacco epidemic is exported from the rich world to low and middle income countries.
– If we are not going to handle urgently the tobacco problem, there will be more death every year.
– We have to match the flexibility of the tobacco industry with our own flexibility, in markets and in strategies.

Inoussa Saouna (Founder, SOS Tabagisme Niger) unofficial translation
– Switzerland is a highly developed and very beautiful country that we Africans in developing countries look to as a model for almost everything.  Tobacco control seems to be the only point where Switzerland is behind other developed countries. Even most of the countries of Africa have ratified the FCTC!
– Tobacco control is a big challenge in Africa, because we have so many other health problems, and so much poverty. But our biggest opportunity is to prevent the spread of the tobacco epidemic in early stages.
– Our biggest advantage is the FCTC…it has given more visibility to the problem, which 20 years ago was not recognized as a problem among poor countries. Africa is waking up, we are pushing our politicians to act.
– We need for Switzerland to provide an example to help us:  Switzerland’s a reputation as a model in Human Rights and other support for development… we need help in this area too.
– So there is no reason to protect the big tobacco companies, which are known to be the vector of the tobacco epidemic that threatens us in low-income countries and is so difficult to combat.  Cigarettes manufactured in Switzerland are sold in Africa, and we have to ask how it is that with the high costs of production in Switzerland, where salaries are so high, these cigarettes can be sold at prices that must be well below the cost of transport and manufactures.  This indicates that there is a mafia…an illegal trade in tobacco. On the other hand, other companies are moving their factories to Africa to reduce production and transport costs and benefit from lower taxes.

Laurent Huber (Executive Director, ASH)
– The biggest obstacle to the FCTC  is the industry.
– Tobacco violates the right to health.
– We know what to do, we have an evidence-based treaty. The problem is governance.
– In 2000, a delegate from Africa said with HIV/AIDS we could have acted earlier. WE could have prevented some of the deathes. With tobacco we have the opportunity to do the same.
– (from Q&A in French) We need to understand better how the illicit trade in cigarettes works, and the flow of cigarettes from Switzerland to Africa shows that Switzerland should also ratify the protocol on illicit trade.
– We call on Switzerland to ratify the FCTC and ratify the Illicit Trade Protocol (ITP).

Pascal Diethelm, President of Oxy-Suisse

Is Switzerland hostage to the tobacco industry?

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – October 3, 2018 – Swiss citizens are being poisoned and killed, and the government is failing to act. Today, 106 organizations, led by Oxy-Suisse and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH US), sent a letter to the President of the Swiss Confederation, calling on Switzerland to ratify the global tobacco treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and to radically change its relationship with tobacco companies.

Read the letter here.

This request comes during the 8th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP8) of the tobacco treaty- where delegations from 137 countries, along with representatives of United Nations agencies, other intergovernmental organizations and civil society come together to discuss the progress of tobacco control around the world. This important bi-annual discussion is currently in session in Geneva, which is ironic, because Switzerland is not party to the treaty.

(L-R) Inoussa Saouna (Founder, SOS Tabagisme Niger), Laurent Huber (Executive Director, ASH), Pascal Diethelm (President, Oxy-Suisse), Professor Bettina Borish (Director, World Federation of Public Health Associations), Laurence Fehlmann Rielle (Member of the Swiss National Council), Guy Mettan (Executive Director, Swiss Press Club)

Switzerland’s domestic tobacco control efforts lag behind as well.  The new draft tobacco product law (LPTab) in Switzerland has a goal of maintaining smoking rates in Switzerland at the current level at least until 2060, a goal which translates into deliberately preserving at current levels the associated mortality of 9,500 tobacco-related deaths per year and morbidity of over 300,000 persons seriously ill because of tobacco. The Swiss government is failing its human rights and Constitutional obligations to protect the right to health and right to life of its citizens.

Visitors to the cow shows in eastern Switzerland will be amazed not only by the ornately decorated bovine headdresses, but by young children legally lighting up cigarettes, cigars and pipes.

The Swiss government and the Swiss people are being held hostage by an industry that takes advantage of the system’s vulnerabilities. Which, of course, is exactly what the tobacco industry intended when they came to Switzerland in the first place- they knew that they could exploit Switzerland’s vulnerabilities to sell their deadly products and establish Switzerland as their global sanctuary.

In addition to Swiss citizens, Switzerland’s lack of tobacco control action is violating the human rights of people all around the world. Three major tobacco companies, Japan Tobacco International (JTI), British American Tobacco (BAT), and Philip Morris International (PMI) have large factories in Switzerland, while two of them, JTI and PMI, have their global headquarters in the country.  Executives in those offices make decisions regarding their deadly products which are marketed and sold all over the world. Switzerland’s relationship with tobacco also negatively impacts its ability to become a global development agency, as tobacco is an unquestionable enemy of development.

ASH, Oxy-Suisse, and our colleagues around the world join together in this sign on letter to call for ratification of the FCTC and the new Illicit Trade Protocol without further delay and to enact tobacco control legislation compliant with WHO FCTC obligations and model its relationship with tobacco companies based on the guidelines of the FCTC.

English Media Contact: Megan Arendt
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH US), +1 202 – 390 – 9513
French and German Media Contact: Pascal Diethelm
Oxy-Suisse, + 41 79 507 98


Oxy-Suisse is a Swiss tobacco control NGO which pursues tobacco use prevention and tobacco control, drawing on the provisions, guidelines and recommendations of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and good practices adopted by the most advanced countries in their application of the treaty. In particular, Oxy-Suisse is advocating for the ratification of the FCTC by Switzerland without further delay and fighting against the interference of the tobacco industry in Switzerland’s public health policy. www.oxyromandie.ch

Founded in 1967, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is America’s oldest anti-tobacco organization, dedicated to a world with ZERO tobacco deaths. Because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, ASH supports bold solutions proportionate to the magnitude of the problem. ash.org


If your organization is interested in joining this initiative, please complete the form here.