Game Over For Nicotine Pouches in The Netherlands

In a move that many would consider unexpected coming from a generally considered progressive nation, the Dutch government has just announced that it would ban the sale of nicotine pouches across the Netherlands.

While other European countries are endorsing the use of nicotine pouches as smoking cessation and tobacco harm reduction tools, the Netherlands has just announced it will ban the sales of the products. Moreover, it will extend existing tobacco laws to include alternative nicotine products in general, so that they will not be allowed for use in spaces where smoking is prohibited.

Advertising for combustion-free nicotine products will also be banned, a move which the government sees as instrumental to stop tobacco companies from promoting new nicotine products in order to addict a new generation of people. Sadly local authorities seem set in their belief that alternative nicotine products are being pushed on the market by the tobacco industry, and fail to acknowledge the alternative nicotine industry which manufactures the products with smoking cessation in mind.

This sentiment was recently echoed by pulmonologist and anti-smoking activist Wanda de Kanter, who said that the tobacco industry is always seeking to introduce novel products such as vapes to stay afloat.

The local tobacco policy is failing
Meanwhile, health experts in the Netherlands have been calling out the local ineffective tobacco policy as smoking rates among young people keep rising. Almost four years following the launch of the government’s extensive “smoke-free generation” plan, the number of young people who smoke has actually increased, highlight these experts.

A regulation banning the display of tobacco products online or in retail stores across the Netherlands, has gone into effect in January 2022. The display ban has already been applicable to tobacco products in supermarkets since the 1st of July 2020. Now also applied to retail stores and online retailers, the ban has been extended to include vaping products, heated tobacco products and herbs intended for smoking.

Meanwhile, a large 2022 survey of 2,981 Dutch vapers, found that the majority would smoke if vapes were not available. The study was carried out by consumer organization ACVODA, and trade association Esigbond, including about 400 thousand vapers with the average age of 45 in the Netherlands. The findings indicated that three quarters of Dutch vapers would still be smoking had they not had access to e-cigarettes. More importantly, the study reported that nine in ten vapers reported witnessing a health improvement after switching from smoking to vaping.

The compiled data also suggested that on average, smokers had 5.1 cessation attempts before switching to e-cigarettes, 63% of vapers reported switching because they want a less harmful alternative to smoking regular cigarettes and 54% did so in an attempt to quit smoking. A further 46% said they believe they would have been unable to quit without the help of vapes, and 81% emphasized that the availability of flavours has played an important role in encouraging the switch.

A slap in the face for tobacco harm reduction
Sadly, while the local Government seems set on ignoring tobacco harm reduction strategies, in 2022 Dutch cancer research and data agency “Integral Kankercentrum Nederland” (IKNL) published an alarming cancer rate prediction. The IKNL report predicted that 1.4 million people will receive a cancer diagnosis by 2032, equating to 7.5% of a population of 18.5 million projected by that same year.

The agency emphasized that reducing smoking rates would be one of the key ways to prevent this figure. Discussing this report the World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) had reiterated that smoking rates can be reduced by fully embracing tobacco harm reduction, part of which is encouraging smokers to switch to safer nicotine products such as vapes and nicotine pouches.

In an email communication, WVA director Michael Landl told us that the nicotine ban is a further step in the wrong direction. “Following the vaping flavour ban last year, a complete ban on nicotine pouches is another step in the wrong direction. The result is that smokers have fewer options to quit smoking. This is in nobody’s interest and will force consumers back to smoking or the black market. Unfortunately, I lost hope that the current government will change its ideological fight against harm reduction. Even though almost 30,000 deaths yearly should be reason enough for politicians and public health to jump over their shadows and admit past mistakes: It’s high time to finally back harm reduction.”