Geneva parliament votes to ban cigarette sales to minors

A man inhales from an e-cigarette © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Geneva has finally joined most other Swiss cantons in banning the sale of cigarettes to minors. Parliamentarians on Friday also voted to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to young people.

This content was published on January 17, 2020 - 18:42

They have adopted a draft law that called for cigarettes and related products to be put in the same category as alcohol. The change results in the introduction of a ban on the sale of cigarettes to children under 18 and e-cigarettes.

Mauro Poggia, the Geneva minister in charge of security, employment and healthExternal link, who pushed through the change, wants Geneva to assume a leadership role to combat addictions among young people.

The Alpine nation, with its federal structure, has a piece-meal approach to tobacco control targeting young peopleExternal link.  Twelve cantons – including Geneva - now ban cigarette sales to children under the age of 18, while 12 have fixed the age limit at 16. Two cantons – Schwyz and Appenzell Inner Rhoden - have no official age limit.

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Canton Geneva tightened its regulations as the federal parliament in Bern considers a revised draft law on tobaccoExternal link. The main points in the original draft include a nationwide ban on the sale of tobacco products to people under 18 and regulations on electronic cigarettes and tobacco products for heating. In September 2019, the Senate voted in favour of tightening the federal tobacco law; the baton has been passed to the House of Representatives.

Almost one in three Swiss people over 15External link (27.1%) regularly smokes or consumes tobacco in some form – a stable rate, almost 8% above the global average.

In 2018, 5.7% of 11-15-year-olds said they smoked “occasionallyExternal link”, down from 18.1% in 1994. Ten percent of 15-year-old boys and 8% of girls of the same age said they smoked cigarettes at least once a week. In all, 41% of the youngsters said they bought the cigarettes themselves from a shop.

Cantons Ticino (31.9%), Neuchâtel (31.5%), Fribourg (29.4%), Aargau (28.9%), Zurich (28.2%) and Vaud (28.2%) had the highest proportion of smokers among their populations in 2017External link. No statistical breakdowns by canton were available for young people under 15.


On Friday, Geneva also banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Geneva minister Poggia said that e-cigarettes encouraged young people into habits that often led to smoking.

Half of Swiss boys and a third of girls aged 15 have tried e-cigarettes at least once, a 2018 surveyExternal link of addiction among 11-15-year-olds found. Some 21% of boys and 13% of girls said they had vaped in the 30 days prior to the survey.

Elsewhere in Switzerland, canton Valais has a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Basel Country has also adopted a ban but it has not yet entered into force. Other cantons – Aargau, Bern, Basel City, Zurich, Solothurn and Thurgau – are considering adopting similar legislation.
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