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BAT petitions Belgium not to ban nicotine pouches, but to follow the Swedish model

British American Tobacco (BAT) will petition Belgium’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to annul a royal decree banning the sale of nicotine pouches.

The company says Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced the coming ban – due to come into force on 1st October – without taking into account either recent science or the opinion of the country’s Superior Health Council.

Vandenbroucke announced in January his intention to ban pouches containing either nicotine or cannabinoids after the Belgian government notified a proposal to that effect to the EU TRIS database in June last year. That proposal received negative opinions from Croatia, Hungary and Sweden, while the European Commission did not comment. 

The ban on the sale of nicotine pouches was announced as part of an anti-tobacco plan endorsed by Vandenbroucke and 23 other ministers on 14th March. They said tobacco-free pouches could contain up to 90 mg of nicotine, nearly nine times more than a regular cigarette. 

BAT has chosen to challenge the decision, claiming that “studies conducted in Germany and the UK have demonstrated that nicotine pouches offer a less harmful alternative to cigarettes”. The company admits pouches are not risk-free and can be addictive.

 

Smoke-free Swedes

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    A BAT spokesperson said: “By banning this product, you ensure that cigarettes become more accessible than an alternative that scientific research shows to be less harmful. Belgium should instead embrace these less harmful alternatives, as many EU member states have already done. 

    “Sweden, for example, has adopted this approach for some time now and is on track to becoming the first EU country to be smoke-free this year, with a smoking rate below 5%. In Belgium, the prevalence of smoking remains at approximately 20%.”

    Rather than an outright ban, BAT is proposing a progressive regulatory framework to encourage adult smokers to switch to alternatives. It is in favour of strict enforcement of the ban on selling nicotine pouches to minors.

    The Federal Public Health Service declined to comment while the question remains with the Council of State.

    Sonia Romero TobaccoIntelligence contributing writer

    Photo: Dimitris Vetsikas

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    TobaccoIntelligence

    This article was written by one of TobaccoIntelligence’s international correspondents. We currently employ more than 40 reporters around the world to cover individual nicotine markets.

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