ZURICH - Switzerland will ban advertising of tobacco products and e-cigarettes aimed at young people, the government said on Wednesday, implementing a decision passed in a referendum last year.

The cabinet said it would strengthen its already planned restrictions to bar advertising in places and media where young people can see it.

The new laws will come into force from mid-2026, and strengthen restrictions on packaging and advertising on tobacco and e-cigarettes due to take effect from next year.

The move, which will affect print media, online advertising and festivals, is designed to reduce tobacco consumption and related deaths.

Smoking remains relatively widespread in Switzerland with 9,500 people dying prematurely every year as a result of tobacco consumption, the government said, describing it as one of the country's biggest public health problems.

"Tobacco use causes numerous non-communicable diseases, and the cost of their medical treatment amounts to 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.37 billion) per year," the government said.

"Tobacco advertising plays a significant role in the decision to start smoking," it added.

In 2022, 6.9% of Swiss 11 to 15-year-olds had smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days, while 5.7% of youths aged 15 to 24 have used electronic cigarettes at least once a month, the government said.

In future, no advertising for tobacco products or e-cigarettes will be allowed in print media, shops or events which can be visited by minors.

In addition, sponsorship of events which people under 18 attend will be banned. Online advertising will be still permitted provided age control systems are in place.

The tighter restrictions follow the success of the referendum "Yes to the protection of children and youths from tobacco advertising," which was approved by 57% of Swiss voters in February 2022. ($1 = 0.8889 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)