On Friday December 2nd, Belgium’s federal government defined the main points of its anti-smoking plan with several stricter measures set to be implemented in the years to come.
The number of smokers in Belgium has increased in recent years, according to the latest report of the Foundation Against Cancer. Every day, 40 people die because of the side effects of smoking, which translates to roughly 14,000 deaths per year. 300,000 people suffer from a disease directly related to smoking. These figures remain high despite the strengthening of anti-smoking policies in recent years.
The Federal Minister of Health, Frank Vandenbroucke, has made this one of his main objectives. “We are firmly committed to an anti-smoking plan with high ambitions for a smoke-free generation,” he said. “To achieve this, we will make smoking less attractive and more difficult to access.
Our ultimate goal is that children will be less exposed to cigarettes.Frank Vandenbroucke, Belgium’s Federal Minister of Health
Since 2009, smoking has been banned in publicly accessible buildings. There is now talk of extending this ban to certain outdoor locations. This means that cigarettes will be banned from amusement parks, zoos, children’s farms (during activities) and playgrounds starting January 1st, 2025.
Belgium’s House of Representatives recently passed a bill that bans the sale of cigarettes through vending machines beginning in 2024. The federal government wishes to further reduce the points of sale.
There is talk of banning the purchase of cigarette packs at bars, cafes and festivals from January 1, 2025. The government has also reached an agreement to end the sale of tobacco in supermarkets by 2028. Most of these restrictions will take effect after 2024, after the next election.
According to Belgian news outlet VRT, the government is also looking into what restrictions on smoking can be brought in by April 2023 at sports grounds and at activities organized by youth associations such as the Scouts.
Philipp Morris Benelux, a subsidiary of the largest multinational in the sector, has not remained silent. According to Belgian news outlet RTBF, the tobacco company says it fully supports the overall objective of the inter-federal anti-smoking plan to drastically reduce the number of smokers in Belgium.
The company points out that smokers who do not stop smoking despite all the prevention measures in place should have access to scientifically proven lower-risk alternatives.