Smoking is about to get more expensive and inconvenient in Belgium, where the government has just approved a suite of anti-tobacco measures set to come into force in January 2024 and later in 2025. The goal is to reduce people’s exposure to the tools and even the sight of the habit.
The Foundation Against Cancer has found 24% of Belgium’s population smokes, with 19% consuming tobacco products on a daily basis. Nearly 40 people die per day due to smoking and a further 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.Frank Vandenbroucke, Belgian Health Minister
The government target is to get daily tobacco use down to 10% percent of the population by 2028 and 5% by 2040. Studies by Sciensano suggest the government is some way off its ambitions and that 2028’s target will not be achieved until the 2040 deadline.
Perhaps the most obvious weapon in the government’s battle to stop people lighting up is to make smoking unaffordable. After a series of excise taxes rises on smoking materials over a number of years, the cost of tobacco and cigarettes is set increase again in the New Year. When January comes round and the new rules come into force, “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,” reports Belga news agency.
No displays and reduced points of sale
Reducing the visibility of, and accces to, the habit is also considered a vital step in helping people to give up, or not to start smoking in the first place. At present, large retailers such as supermarkets keep cigarettes in special cabinets and customers must request unseen products by name. However it is still possible to see tobacco products on the shelves of smaller local shops where special cabinets often remain open.
there is a town in belgium which shops strictly include tobacco alcohol and headshop wholesalers it was the shadiest place ever— ❁ CHRIST ❁ (@Tree_Bark37841) August 16, 2013
From 2025, supermarkets and festivals will not be able to sell tobacco products and shops will be prevented from displaying cigarettes, vapes and other smoking paraphernalia. Tighter rules on sales and advertising will be introduced and if a buyer looks younger than 25 years old, retailers will have to ask for proof-of-age. The government says it will take robust enforcement action and impose heavy fines for breaches.
Also taking another year to introduce, there will be new restrictions placed on the range of places where it is possible to smoke. Public spaces, especially those frequented by young people, are in the government’s sights. From 2025, amusement parks, playgrounds, sports grounds and zoos will be smoke-free zones. In addition, smokers will have to wait until they are at least 10 metres away from hospitals, libraries and schools before lighting up.
The good news is, if you’re looking to quit smoking, nicotine replacement therapy could soon be eligible for reimbursement, depending on decisions to be made early next year.