Swiss voters headed to the polls on Sunday to tighten their tobacco laws by prohibiting almost all advertising of tobacco products.
Nearly 57% of voters and 16 of Switzerland's 26 cantons backed the near-total tobacco advertising ban, a final tally of votes showed.
"We are extremely happy. The people understood that health is more important than economic interests, " Stefanie De Borba of the Swiss League against Cancer, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) as the results became clear.
Switzerland lags far behind most wealthy nations in restricting tobacco advertising – a situation widely blamed on hefty lobbying by some of the world's biggest tobacco companies headquartered in the country.
Currently, most tobacco advertising is legal at a national level, except for ads on television and radio, and ones that specifically target minors.
Some Swiss cantons have introduced stricter regional legislation and a new national law is pending, but the campaigners who forced the issue to a vote under Switzerland's direct democracy system demanded far tighter rules.
Opponents of the initiative, which include the Swiss government and parliament, had argued that it goes too far.
"Today we are talking about cigarettes, but we will soon be talking about alcohol and meat," warned Philippe Bauer, a lawmaker from the right-wing Liberal Party.
"It annoys me to live in a society ... with this dictatorship of the politically correct, where everything has to be regulated," he told the RTS broadcaster.
His concerns echo those voiced by Philip Morris International (PMI), the world's largest tobacco company, which, like British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco, is headquartered in Switzerland and has helped fund the "No" campaign.
"This is a slippery slope as far as individual freedom is concerned," a spokesperson for PMI's Swiss section told AFP, decrying Sunday's result.
When drafting the decision into law, he urged parliament to do so with "moderation and measure," and ensure advertising directed at adults will remain legal.
"A total ban on advertising for legal products is contrary to the freedom of trade and industry enshrined in the constitution."
Jean-Paul Humair, who heads a Geneva addiction prevention center, hailed Sunday's win as "a very important step" in the battle against tobacco use, and flatly rejected the industry's arguments.
"This is not a question of freedom ... It is an illusion of freedom," he told AFP, pointing out that tobacco use creates severe dependency.
"There is no other consumer product that kills half of all users."
Campaigners say lax advertising laws have stymied efforts to bring down smoking rates in the Alpine nation of 8.6 million people, where more than a quarter of adults consume tobacco products. There are around 9,500 tobacco-linked deaths each year.
Sunday's win means that the new tobacco advertising restrictions will be added to a new tobacco law already due to take effect next year.
That law, which Swiss lawmakers voted through last September after years of debate, for the first time sets a nationwide minimum age for the purchase of tobacco – at 18.
Other issues on Sunday's ballot did not fare as well in the polls.
Nearly 80% of voters rejected a call to ban all animal testing.
All political parties, parliament and the government had opposed the initiative, arguing it went too far and would have dire consequences for medical research.
Researchers say medical progress is impossible without experimentation, and even the Swiss Animal Protection group has warned against the initiative's "radical" demands.
Swiss authorities also stressed the country already has among the world's strictest laws regulating animal testing.
In another animal-themed vote, inhabitants in the northern Basel-Stadt canton also massively rejected a bid to afford nonhuman primates some of the same basic fundamental rights as their human cousins, with nearly 75% opposed.
More than 55% of voters also rejected a plan by the national government to provide additional state funding to media companies, which have seen their advertising revenues evaporate in recent years.
Nearly 44% of eligible Swiss voters took part Sunday, which is not unusually low in a country where such popular votes are held every few months.