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Belgium awaits response from EC in second attempt to ban disposables

Belgium looks close to achieving a ban on disposable e-cigarettes, after failing in a previous attempt that was met by a negative opinion from the European Commission (EC) in late 2021.

After Belgian authorities submitted a new notification of the measure in October last year, they are now awaiting the EC’s response – which, based on ECigIntelligence’s sources, is anticipated before the end of this month.

If, as expected by the government, the EC green-lights the reform, disposable vapes will be prohibited in Belgium starting from next year.

“We want to ban disposable e-cigarettes starting from 2025,” the government said in a note as it announced a new set of measures to fight tobacco-smoking addiction it approved at the end of October.

 

Optimistic

 

The government added that it had previously attempted to introduce the ban but had its 2021 EC submission turned down. It said the new submission contains new elements in support of the measure. Belgian authorities are optimistic about the impact of these additional arguments, based on additional work carried out last summer. A response from the Commission is expected by Belgium sometime in spring 2024.

Social affairs and public health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said the set of measures unveiled in October last year – which also include, among other reforms, a display ban on all traditional and novel tobacco products, higher taxes on tobacco as well as vaping products, and other restrictions – are intended to curb tobacco and nicotine addiction in the country.

“The tobacco lobby constantly comes up with new products to encourage people to smoke or to stay addicted, and this needs to stop,” Vandenbroucke said.

“Over 60% of smokers in Belgium wish to quit, but over half of those who try relapse, as nicotine addiction is tenacious, and we want to help people really take this step,” he added.

 

Notifying it differently

 

Belgium duly notified its newly approved ban on disposable vaping products to the EC, despite a previous negative opinion.

This time, as Vandenbroucke said, more arguments were submitted in support of the measure, although this is not the main reason the EC may give a different response this time.

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    Three years ago, Belgium entered a bill containing its disposable e-cigarette ban into the Technical Regulation Information System (TRIS) – used by EU member states to notify new laws that could create obstacles within the European market.

    This time, the Belgian government opted for the notification procedure established by the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) in Article 24(3).

    While the EC’s previous negative opinion on Belgium’s notification, submitted through the TRIS system, was not binding, it was very detailed and specified that a bill introducing a ban on a product covered by the TPD should be carried out according to the procedure established in the directive.

    Back then, Belgian authorities decided to withdraw the bill and are now notifying the ban on disposables through the TPD-based procedure.

    Based on Article 24 of the TPD, the EC has six months to respond to the member state that notified a bill, which means Belgium should hear from the Commission before the end of March.

     

    France next in line

     

    Following up on Belgium’s initiative, neighbouring France’s parliament also recently approved a law which introduced a ban on disposable vaping products.

    This bill will also need to be notified to the EC.

    While the French government has not yet clarified what procedure it will follow, the TPD-based one, contained in Article 24, is likely to be the preferred option.

    Meanwhile, Poland has recently announced plans to impose its own disposables ban and is considering the route of notifying a bill to the EU, but – bearing in mind the efforts by other EU countries – wants the path to be as quick as possible.

    Deputy health minister Wojciech Konieczny hinted in an interview with Polskie Radio that Warsaw might be able to prevent Brussels from blocking the legislation by introducing a law that would also cover other anti-nicotine issues.

    Regardless of the potential response these governments may receive from the EC, the ban on disposable vapes – supported by healthcare and environmental organisations – is facing some criticism from vaping associations and harm-reduction advocates in the three countries.

    – Tiziana Cauli ECigIntelligence staff

    Photo: Bibhash (Polygon.Cafe) Banerjee

    Tiziana Cauli

    Senior reporter
    Tiziana is an Italian journalist from Sardinia. She has worked for both international and local media in Italy, South Africa, France, Spain, the UK, Lebanon and Belgium. She also worked as a communications manager for several international NGOs in the humanitarian sector. Tiziana holds a degree in Political Science and a PhD in African Studies from the University of Cagliari and she’s a graduate of the Carlo De Martino school of journalism in Milan.

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