Belgium steps up fight against smoking with price increases and display bans
The Belgian government has approved new anti-smoking measures, including a display ban, fewer points of sale, higher prices and stricter controls. The main aim is to reduce young people's exposure to tobacco or alternative smoking materials.
According to the Foundation Against Cancer, 24 per cent of Belgium's population smokes, 19 per cent of them daily. At the same time, smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer. Every day, almost 40 people in Belgium die from smoking and another 300,000 suffer from tobacco-related diseases.
"That is why we are making it more and more difficult for the tobacco lobby to sell its unhealthy products," says Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke. This is the second set of measures approved by the government: the first set was approved at the end of 2022.
From 1 January 2024, cigarettes will be much more expensive. The price of a pack of 20 cigarettes will have risen by 59 per cent in four years, while the price of loose tobacco will have risen by more than 90 per cent. The price of e-cigarettes will also increase.
From 2025, shops will be banned from displaying cigarettes, vapes and other smoking products. They can only be displayed in a separate area or locked away in a drawer or cabinet. Temporary sales, such as during festivals, will also be banned.
Smoking will be banned from 2025 in and around sports grounds, amusement parks, zoos and playgrounds. There will be a mandatory 10 m perimeter at the entrance to hospitals, libraries and schools.
"When we see how many people really want to quit smoking, it is our responsibility to guide them as best we can"
There will also be stricter controls on sales and advertising. It will be compulsory to ask for proof of age if a buyer looks younger than 25. To help smokers quit, reimbursement of nicotine replacement therapy is being considered. A decision on that will be made in spring 2024.
"Addiction to nicotine is persistent. We therefore want to help people take this step," Vandenbroucke said. "When we see how many people really want to quit smoking, it is our responsibility to guide them as best we can."
© PHOTO JONAS HAMERS / IMAGEGLOBE