I recently wrote an article which documented the proposed move to ban the sale of Nicotine Pouches in the Netherlands, and within that article I mentioned that it may just be a matter of time before other neighbouring countries in Europe follow suit, but I didn’t expect it to be so quick before another country joins them making similar proposals.
Just last week, Belgium’s Health Minister made it public knowledge about the proposal being put forward to ban the sale of Nicotine Pouches in the country, deeming them as a “stepping stone” alongside electronic cigarettes as a gateway for young people to turn to smoking after using them, a theory which has been dispelled by different reports released from around the globe.
In this article, I’m going to look at the Health Minister’s full statement and their reasonings for wanting to ban the sale of Nicotine Pouches, comparing it to the statement made by the Dutch Government not so long back, and also take a look at other proposals that Belgium want to bring in to combat the apparent “gateway” theory.
Belgium’s Health Minister speaks out
Frank Vandenbroucke is the Health Minster of Belgium, and last week (01/02/23), he made a statement in Parliamentary chambers making it public knowledge that Belgium are considering a country wide ban on the sale of Nicotine Pouches. Mr Vandenbroucke is quoted as saying the following;
” Our goal is to prevent our children and young people from smoking. 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.”
I understand the want to protect young people from smoking from the Belgian Government but to associate something designed to help people quit smoking with smoking itself and saying it’s related is really absurd in reality. He goes on to say more also;
“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.”
Again, I get the desire to protect young people and children’s health, but banning something that is designed to assist to improve the health of ex-smokers just doesn’t make sense to me. And the use of the gateway theory by the Belgian Government is an argument which doesn’t add up, and as I mentioned, has been previously dispelled. Let’s look into this point in more detail below
The Gateway to Smoking theory
Belgium are not the first country to use the “gateway” theory when it comes to speaking about the banning of nicotine based alternatives to smoking. The USA, Netherlands, Canada and multiple other countries have said both E-Cigarettes and Nicotine Pouches carry the risk of being a gateway to smoking for children and young people after using them.
However, this theory has been dispelled multiple times by various different outlets and there hasn’t been any proven evidence that using nicotine alternatives like the aforementioned is a gateway to smoking. Instead, there’s been evidence that has shown quite the opposite effect.
Studies released in America showed that the number of teens/underage users of E-Cigarettes had began to dwindle down by themselves, without the need for any intervention in the form of bans and restrictions being bought in. Now if the number of teens vaping had gone down, surely the number of smokers would have increased right?
Well, not in this case. In a separate study that looked at smoking prevalence in the USA, it showed there was no increase in the volume of young people smoking, instead the amount of smokers in the country had actually decreased as well. Add to this as well, Public Health England conducted a survey with residents of the UK and the results of this survey no not support the idea that vaping is a gateway to smoking.
So this really dispels the theory that using E-Cigarettes or any other tobacco free alternative to cigarettes doesn’t actually create a gateway to smoking at all, so when a country leans on this as a reasoning for restrictions being put forward to come into action, it doesn’t really make sense.
A U-Turn by the Belgian Government?
This announcement to ban Nicotine Pouches and the whole gateway to smoking theory, including E-Cigarettes, feels like a bit of a u-turn by the Belgian Government on their previous stance about harm reduction methods such as Vaping which was discussed only in August of last year!
The Belgian Health Authority released a statement effectively backing the use of E-Cigarettes as a safer alternative to tobacco smoking, and said there would be promotion of e-cigarettes within the country going forward.
Yet here we are six months later, and a ban on a safer alternative to tobacco is being suggested, as well as type casting both them and E-Cigarettes as a gateway to smoking for young people. It really is a mind boggling u-turn by the Belgian Government, and it makes me wonder why the sudden change of direction has now come from them. As I mentioned at the start of this article, I questioned if the Netherlands making an announcement like they did regarding Nicotine Pouches would influence any other countries, and it feels as though it certainly has…
Netherlands ban on Nicotine Pouches causing a waterfall effect to nearby countries?
The Brussels Times is the site where this news of Belgium wanting to ban Nicotine Pouches first broke, and what I have used for reference to write this article. And what I find interesting is the article itself does actually reference back to the Netherlands report of wanting to ban Nicotine pouches due to “the dangers” of them, especially to children. They say “they contain enough nicotine to become addictive and have a harmful effect on the brain” which if you know anything about Nicotine, you’ll know it isn’t harmful to a person and can actually have positive effects on the brain by helping concentration, focus and improve memory also.
The Netherlands making the formal statement with their intention to ban the sale of Nicotine Pouches may have had a form of influence to Belgium now wanting to follow suit, but it is merely my own specualtion. I do hope the public consultation held by the Netherlands over the banning will be effective in a positive aspect for it to not go ahead, and hopefully it could make Belgium reconsider their views on it, but only time will tell.