In November 2018, the Tobacco Control Fund invited young people from all over Switzerland to take part in an "expedition" to the Emmental valley with the aim of devising new and attractive ways of combating smoking. The group was accompanied by adults and smoking prevention experts to answer their questions. Their joint reflections bore fruit and the young people came up with twenty-seven ideas for action, which the group then evaluated and ranked according to interest. Three of the ideas received almost universal support. They related to the influence and tactics of the tobacco and nicotine industry and the need for transparency with society. These three ideas were brought together and summarised – and that is how "Transparency and Truth" was born.
The young people’s choice of topic fits in with the recommendation of the Swiss Federal Commission for Tobacco Control (FCTOC) which, in its in its final communication (in French), proposed focussing on and clarifying the methods employed by the tobacco industry to influence society and our legislation. This subject also features prominently in the Strategy of the Tobacco Control Fund (Focal Area 2) (in French) as well as in the provisions of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), especially Article 5.3 on interference by the tobacco industry and Article 12 on education, communication, training and public awareness, together with the guidelines for implementing these articles.
Contrary to what we sometimes hear and read in the media and what some politicians say, Switzerland is lagging severely behind other nations when it comes to the fight against the tobacco epidemic. It ranks second to last in both the European Tobacco Control Scale, which measures the implementation of effective preventive measures in 37 countries, and the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index, which measures the tobacco industry's influence on legislation in 90 countries.
Switzerland is one of the few Eurasian countries that has not yet ratified the FCTC (in French), an international treaty to which 183 states are currently party, including the European Union. Switzerland’s lax approach to tobacco control has serious health consequences, which every year exceed those of COVID-19 in 2020. Switzerland has a high number of smokers in its population and this proportion is not decreasing, unlike in countries applying the measures recommended by the FCTC and the WHO.
This serious delay is due essentially to the presence of the tobacco and nicotine industry on our soil, together with its manoeuvring and influencing of our society and institutions. “Transparency and Truth” aims to provide the public with factual and telling information on the industry and its behaviour in Switzerland. It is based on the model of the Truth Initiative which had a major impact on smoking in the United States in the 1990s and continues to do so today. While this had steadily cut the smoking rate among 18–24-year-olds in the US to 5.3% by 2021, 40% of 20–24-year-olds smoke in Switzerland.
“Transparency and Truth” also draws inspiration from the “commercial determinants of health” approach, which highlights the impact that industries have on our laws, our living environment and our health. The tobacco industry is unfortunately not the only one to influence legislation in its favour and block effective measures in order to protect its profits (see an example here (in French)). Other industries do the same. “Transparency and Truth” is extending the scope of the study to include these industries and thus highlight the underlying mechanisms and explore similarities with the tobacco industry, which has demonstrated a remarkable (and culpable) spirit of innovation in this field. “Transparency and Truth” works on the principle that informed citizens are in a position to assert their rights and influence the development of the society in which they live. At present, although this information is publicly available in Switzerland, it is not very well known, while the population is exposed to biased or incorrect information on these issues on a daily basis.
“Transparency and Truth” aims to shed light on the reasons for this smoking epidemic and the failure to curb it in Switzerland. The information posted on this site is intended to act as a vaccine – once you have read it, you will have no problem recognising the attempts to influence you when you are subjected to them. This will allow you to be on your guard against them and expose them for what they are.
Ultimately, “Transparency and Truth” aims to liberate young people from the detrimental influence of the tobacco industry and other industries inspired by its methods. This will enable them to fully embrace the ideals of freedom and responsibility and to refuse to be misled by an industry for which these ideals are nothing more than marketing and public relations slogans. The values associated with “Transparency and Truth” have emanated from young people. They are also intended to be developed and put into practice by young people, helping them to take charge of tomorrow’s world. These values can be summed up in three words: Free. Fair. Future.