The year of tobacco 2022: legal gain, political delay

A resounding victory for Youth Smoking Prevention at the European Court of Justice and the Rotterdam District Court in the case of the cheat cigarette, but also a huge vape hype, more and more tobacconists and cabinet plans that will only come into force in a year. We close the year 2022 with mixed feelings.

By Bas van Lier

The year 2022 is drawing to a close, and when it comes to tobacco prevention, we look back on the past 12 months with mixed feelings. The good news came from the courtroom this year, starting with the judgment at the end of February of the European Court of Justice in the case where Smoking Prevention Youth (RPJ) and fourteen other parties in the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) enforcement of the maximum emission standards for tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide for cigarettes.

The Grand Chamber of the Court gave us a comprehensive verdict and a resounding victory. The judges stated that the existing ISO measurement method, which allows for tampering with the results, can continue to be used by the tobacco industry for mutual use, but that at the same time another method must be used to enforce the emission standards to protect public health, which more closely approximates that of smokers actual smoking behavior. According to the Court, “a high level of protection of human health, especially of young people, must be taken as a basis.”

NVWA must enforce

The judge in Rotterdam, who ultimately had to decide the case, had no choice but to follow the judgment of the European Court of Justice in early November: NVWA must take coercive measures against the counterfeit cigarette, the court ruled. A month later, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) together with the NVWA announced that it would appeal this decision, not to challenge it, but to get confirmation at the highest level that the Netherlands could use an alternative measurement method to control emissions of cigarettes. In the meantime, NVWA will prepare to work with these new metrics in the near term.

At the last minute, the Dutch Association of Cigarette and Kerft Tobacco Manufacturers (VSK) and all four major tobacco manufacturers Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Van Nelle Tabak (Imperial Tobacco) ) also signed ) appealed in this case. The fear is now apparently good for the tobacco companies. Lawyer Phon van den Biesen, who represents RPJ in this case, looks forward to that appeal with confidence. After all, the judgment of the European Court of Justice is a judgment that cannot be contested.

In April, the cabinet also committed to investigating whether the cigarette filter – which makes the filter cigarette a cheat cigarette thanks to the small holes in it through which smoking machines draw in extra air – can be completely banned. This commitment was in response to a motion by the Animal Party out of concern over the enormous environmental pollution caused by cigarette filters, which have no additional health benefits.

The prevention agreement has failed

But as the web closes in on the cheat cigarette, 2022 brought new concerns about nicotine addiction among young people. This is primarily due to the disposable e-cigarette or vape. In July we had to conclude that the cabinet is hopelessly behind the vape hype: smoking is ‘in’ again among young people, wrote The password, and official figures showed that the steady decline in the number of smokers in previous years has stagnated in recent times. Pulmonologist Wanda de Kanter, chairman of Youth Smoking Prevention, therefore added in August One today which is strongly felt by anti-tobacco activists: the national prevention agreement has failed.

Vaping is on the rise and enforcement of the age limit and the smoking ban is falling short. In October, Wanda was kanter for the program Zembla a visitor to a school in Rotterdam where first graders said they could easily buy vapes at a tobacconist and convenience store opposite the school. Children 12 years! In schools, but also in the nightlife, people are vaping carefree.

Supermarkets opened their own tobacco shops

That brings us to another hot topic this year: the sales points. Because already in January, we had to note that supermarkets opened separate tobacco shops in preparation for the ban on the sale of tobacco in supermarkets from 2024. Halfway through the year, a number of new tobacco shops had already been opened by supermarket owners. and this month we saw how Dekamarkt is experimenting with separate Primera stores in their own supermarkets. The limits of the future law are already being explored.

At the beginning of December, the Rutte IV cabinet finally got answers to all the reports showing that we in the Netherlands continue to hand over our youth to the ruthless, multinational nicotine industry. The package of measures that State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen (VWS) presented at the beginning of December showed his discretion in a cabinet dominated by VVD’s tobacco friends. Steps are being taken, but those who hoped for this must, above all, take a long breath. The ban on flavorings for e-cigarettes will only come into force in 9 months, sales of e-cigarettes only in specialist shops only in 2025, tobacco from gas stations only in 2030, tobacco from tobacconists and convenience stores only in 2032. Whether there will be new ones after 2024 is excise duty increases are still under investigation, as is the question of whether the age limit for purchasing nicotine products might need to be raised to 21. But comfort, already in 2025 the smoking ban will be extended to include playgrounds and sports parks. That will teach the tobacco industry!

House of Representatives: It must be faster and tighter

It may seem too easy to be so cynical about tobacco control policies, but last week made it clear that this sentiment is widely shared. In the parliamentary committee debate on prevention policy, the general tenor was whether things could not be done faster and better. “When it comes to smoking, the cabinet is not yet making much progress,” said SP MP Hijink. His D66 colleague Van der Laan also asked for further steps, including giving e-cigarettes (the product itself) a neutral appearance and introducing a licensing system for tobacco sales. Hijinks’ suggestion that e-cigarettes should be distributed only by prescription as a smoking cessation aid also seemed like a good idea to her.

PvdA member Mohandis suggested that the Netherlands should follow the example of a generational ban on tobacco sales in New Zealand and is considering making a motion to this effect in the follow-up debate, which is scheduled for mid-January. CDA MP Kuik sounded the alarm about the number of tobacco deaths (“autopsy of a tobacco death every half hour”) and condemned that there are many more tobacco outlets in poorer neighbourhoods. She also sees a licensing system as a possible solution. Party chairman Seeghers in ChristenUnie is also in favor of this. Member Den Haan mentioned the bankruptcy of the Prevention Agreement and also argued for a New Zealand solution.

State Secretary Van Ooijen deftly navigated all these proposals, and it is said that the next day, during consultations at the Tobacco Table of the Prevention Agreement, people collectively let out a deep, dejected sigh. Prevention and protection of young people is known, but in practice it is still far and sometimes very far ahead.

Sign the citizens’ initiative Nicotine

In 2023, TabakNee will keep its finger on the pulse and for those who want to take action themselves: Sign the citizens’ initiative Nicotine for a nicotine-free generation and much better, strict enforcement of the rules to protect young people from nicotine addiction. Go to nicotinee.nl for this.

tags: Nicotine | vape hype | licensing system | Prevention agreement | fake cigarette | policy | Minister of Foreign Affairs | excise duty increase | the e-cigarette | nvwa | supermarket | VVD | trial | tobacco policy

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