SWITZERLAND: The country does not plan to become involved in the illegal tobacco trade

SWITZERLAND: The country does not plan to become involved in the illegal tobacco trade

In Switzerland, the proposed new legislation on tobacco products does not provide for a system of cigarette traceability comparable to that advocated by the World Health Organization.


While the fight against the illicit trade in tobacco products has just crossed an important stage on the Old Continent, Switzerland will not get involved. Since 20 May 2019, the European Union (EU) has a new tobacco traceability device. All cigarette packages and cartons now have an ID code that allows national authorities to track and trace their journeys throughout the supply chain.

Each Member State is responsible for designating an entity responsible for issuing new traceability marks. For example, it is the Imprimerie Nationale which supplies in France the codes affixed to the goods. Manufacturers and importers, on the other hand, had to enter into contracts with data storage providers to host traceability indications.

However, denounce associations for the prevention of smoking, the European directive is insufficient to ensure "traceability strictly independent of tobacco companies", provided by the Protocol to eliminate the illicit trade in tobacco products. Entered into force in autumn 2018, this one is part of the World Health Organization (WHO) Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The criticism is that some actors involved in data storage would have indirect links with the industrialists in the industry.

The signatories of the Protocol have until 2023 to implement the new rules. They stem from the fact that annual losses in terms of tax revenue related to illicit tobacco trade are estimated at around EUR 11 billion in the EU and some 30 billion in the world.


As Switzerland is one of the few countries that has not ratified the WHO Convention, it is not concerned by this mechanism. Until when? "It is imperative to wait for its implementation in the EU before deciding on the measures that will eventually be taken in Switzerland. Given the international trade links, a solution specific to Switzerland would be meaningless and would be contrary to the objective sought by WHO. "This position of the Federal Council goes back to 2015.

Today, it has not changed. The draft new law on tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, which will be debated in Parliament in 2020, does not provide for a traceability system comparable to that of the WHO. In its message, the Federal Council does not comment on the system that is currently operated in Switzerland by cigarette manufacturers. But we guess he thinks it's enough. It also indicates that the Federal Customs Administration is involved in the framework of international customs and police cooperation with a group of experts attached to Europol, responsible for combating tobacco smuggling in Europe.

According to the Socialist Party, the fact that the Federal Council does not want to establish a traceability system is questionable. "Switzerland's non-participation in international efforts should not reveal shortcomings in international customs and police cooperation", He said during the consultation procedure of the law.

In Parliament, the games are already done. The majority of MPs will not take any action that could Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International who are settled in Switzerland. These three giants control, by themselves, about 80% of the world market.

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About the Author

Editor and correspondent Switzerland. Vapoteuse for many years, I take care mainly of Swiss news.

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