Last week, Belgium’s Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke called for a ban on nicotine pouches, claiming that just like vapes, pouches can act as a gateway to smoking.
”Our goal is to prevent our children and young people from smoking,” said Vandenbroucke. “If you are fully committed to a smoke-free generation, you must ensure that young people come into less contact with smoking or anything related to it.”
Sadly the minister reiterated that the products can lead teens to smoking, a theory which has been scientifically disproved. “These nicotine pouches, like electronic cigarettes and vaping, can be a stepping stone to smoking at an early age,” the minister stressed. “That is why we are resolutely opting for a ban on them. We are doing this because protecting the health of children and young people is an absolute priority.”
In fact, a number of peer reviewed studies have denied the link between vaping and smoking uptake in teens. Renowned UK Health authority Public Health England (PHE) has recently highlighted that no such link has been observed, “latest survey results in the UK do not support the idea that vaping (or the use of e-cigarettes) is a gateway to smoking.”
While Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)-UK, cited results of five major surveys of minors conducted between 2015 and 2017 which indicated that “most young people who experiment with e-cigarettes did not become regular users.”
“Overall, there is no evidence that e-cigarettes have driven up smoking prevalence in this age group. In fact, smoking prevalence among young people has declined since e-cigarettes came onto the market,” said ASH-UK.
Another measure set forward by the health minister
Meanwhile, last November the Federal Government approved a bill by Vandenbroucke to completely ban tobacco vending machines across the the hospitality industry, with one of the main aims being reducing exposure and access to minors.
“Since 2006, those tobacco vending machines must be equipped with a lock via ‘agecoins’, a kind of token that cannot be given to minors. In practice, however, we see that the tokens are often made available to anyone,” said Federal MP for the Christian-democratic CD&V party Els Van Hoof.
The bill comes with an exemption for supermarkets, however mentions the importance of explicit age verification at the checkout, where even with self-scanning checkouts, shop assistants are required to carry out explicit age verifications.