By John Revill
ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss voters rejected a proposal by animal rights activists to make Switzerland the first country to ban medical and scientific experiments on animals, but approved tougher restrictions on cigarette advertising in referendums held on Sunday.
Only 21% of voters were in favour of the animal experiment ban, with 79% against, according to government figures, in the nationwide referendum held under the Swiss tradition of direct democracy.
Supporters had wanted to halt tests, saying they are unethical and unnecessary, but ran into opposition from the country's powerful pharmaceuticals lobby, which warned of the economic damage such a ban could cause.
"We are delighted with the clear rejection of this harmful initiative," said Rene Buholzer, CEO of lobby group Interpharma.
"It shows that the Swiss population recognise the central role of research for people's health and for prosperity in Switzerland."
Supporters said animals in laboratories and used to provide food suffer serious discrimination.
"Why don't we have more empathy for them?" said campaign co-president Renato Werndli.
In another vote on Sunday, voters approved tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising, with 57% in favour.
The restrictions will see such advertising banned in newspapers, cinemas, the internet, at events, and on billboards, with supporters saying such adverts encourage youth smoking.
"I'm in favour because it's a shame people are starting (to smoke), it’s a social phenomenon and it does not do good to anybody," said Angela Margeuron, from Carouge.
"We hear constantly that people end up in hospitals or die or that they have huge health issues, but still advertising is still here, of course it's about money, as always."
The government was defeated in the other two votes on Sunday.
Its proposal to scrap the 1% tax on raising equity was opposed by 63% with only 37% in favour, an outcome Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said sent a negative signal to businesses seeking to invest in Switzerland.
Bern's plan to increase financial support for the media also failed, rejected by 55% of voters.
"The majority thought that probably too much money was being given to the media, and many agreed with the argument that the proposal favoured the big publishers," Communications Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told a news conference alongside Maurer.
"In the last few weeks the argument prevailed that the wrong people would benefit."
(Reporting by John Revill and Cecile Mantovani; Editing by Frances Kerry)