This appears from a letter from State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen from VWS to the House of Representatives. In it, Van Ooijen reacts to the surprising decision by the court in Rotterdam on November 4, where the government has been summoned to enforce the current filter cigarette. The method used to measure the amount of harmful substances in the cigarette is unreliable, the judge assessed, which makes the current filter cigarette too unhealthy. It contains more tar and nicotine than is allowed.
The judge ruled that the NVWA (and therefore effectively their client, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport) had to respond within six weeks and otherwise enforce. In practice, this could mean that the current filter cigarette would have to be removed from the shelves in a week and a half.
But the ministry and NVWA will appeal, according to Van Ooijen’s letter. That appeal was supposed to provide ‘a firmer legal basis’ to be able to remove the current cigarette from the shops. The ministry fears that if the current cigarette is removed from shops, the tobacco industry could successfully bring a lawsuit against it. The court has ruled that the current method of measuring harmful substances is unreliable, but that method is still formally allowed in Europe.
Apparently they fear the procedures of the tobacco industry
Cheated for years
During the appeal, NVWA will start measuring cigarettes according to the more honest ‘TobLabNet measurement method’ (see box below). The results are expected before the summer of 2023.
Among others, the RIVM has already used the TobLabNet method and has shown that cigarettes are much more harmful than permitted. The Youth Smoking Prevention Fund says the tobacco industry has known this for decades and has been deceiving consumers for years.
Pulmonologist Wanda de Kanter from Smoking Prevention Youth says the government is simply ‘too scared’ of lengthy procedures from the tobacco industry. “The will is there with the state secretary, we are happy about that, but the courage is not yet there. After all, no additional legal justification is required, which is already there: the EU Court of Justice has said that you must use the TobLabNet measurement method if you want to protect the consumer. And the judge in Rotterdam then said that the NVWA must simply enforce. So they can just do that, but they obviously fear the tobacco industry’s procedures.”
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Why is the current cigarette not good?
The case concerns the different ways in which the amount of tar and nicotine consumed by the smoker is measured. There are small holes in the filter of filter cigarettes. Therefore, smoke machines also absorb oxygen when they ‘inhale’, which means that less harmful substances are measured. Regular smokers close these holes with their fingers and therefore ingest more harmful substances. This flaw in the measurement method has been known for some time, but has not been enforced until now. The anti-tobacco lobby has been talking about the ‘cheat cigarette’ for years.
The TobLabNet measurement method measures more fairly. In addition, the filter holes are taped and the machine ‘inhales’ as much as a smoker does to get enough addictive substances.
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