Belgium gets go-ahead to be first EU member state with disposables ban

Belgium is to become the first EU member state to ban disposable e-cigarettes, following the European Commission’s approval today of its proposed legislation.

The Commission’s decision is likely to encourage other EU member states to see prohibition as a solution to the two main issues surrounding disposables – under-age use, and their effect on the environment. It could also pave the way for a Europe-wide ban in the upcoming third revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD3).

However, it does not set a formal precedent – other EU member states seeking to ban disposables will still have to seek EU approval of their own plans – and it is unclear whether the European Commission (EC) sees Belgium as a special case.

The Belgian government decided on a complete ban on the products, expected to come into force in 2025, after concluding that other measures – such as new rules on products and packaging, stricter enforcement of the existing ban on online sales and advertising, and higher penalties for non-compliance – would not work to hold back the explosive growth of disposables sales.

The country’s e-cigarette market has grown sharply in recent years, doubling in value between 2021 and 2023, according to ECigIntelligence research. Much of that growth is down to disposables – now favoured by about a third of adult users, as well as under-age vapers buying the products illegally – and in total around 55% of the market’s value last year came from closed-system products, which include disposables and pre-filled pods. Nearly 70% of new products coming onto the Belgian market were disposable.

Under-age vaping with disposables has been encouraged, Belgium believes, by attractive and affordable products. It cited health concerns for young people including risks of addiction, impaired brain development, and overdose – particularly because of nicotine concentrations exceeding the legal limit – as well as the problem of waste.

The Belgian ban will cover nicotine-free products, too, although the EC was not required to make a decision on that aspect.


Other proposed bans could follow, but not necessarily be approved

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    Similar measures are almost certain to be seen in at least some of Europe’s other major e-cigarette markets.

    France already has a proposed ban, although it will still need to go through the EC process. Poland looks likely to introduce its own, and in the UK – no longer an EU member – a prohibition on disposables is among several high-profile regulatory measures announced recently.

    Indeed, the EC’s support for the Belgian proposal may encourage other member states to start their own procedures to ban disposables, said Sergi Riudalbàs Clemente, an ECigIntelligence legal analyst who has been covering developments in Belgium.

    However, he cautioned: “This does not necessarily mean that the EC is going to decide favourably on every proposed ban, as it has made it clear that a straightforward ban was required by the specific situation in Belgium. It agreed to discard other, less restrictive measures as insufficient to effectively protect public health in Belgium’s specific situation.

    “The question is to what extent it indicates the EC’s view on the regulation of disposables in general, although alongside all the negative debate around disposables in the EU, it certainly seems to tip the balance of the debate towards banning disposables in the TPD3. The Belgian argument that a polluted environment is an obstacle to public health could also make it easier to justify a ban in the TPD3.”

    Belgium submitted its current proposal for a disposables ban in December 2022, after the European Commission told it that a 2021 proposal had been submitted through the wrong process. Approval of the current proposal was then delayed while the EC sought further information last year.

    – Barnaby Page ECigIntelligence staff

    Photo: Sipan Hamed

    Barnaby Page

    Editorial director
    Before joining ECigIntelligence in early 2014 as one of its first employees, Barnaby had a 30-year career as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and online services, working in Canada, the US and the Middle East as well as his current British location. He has edited publications covering fields including technology and the advertising industry, and was launch editor of the first large daily online news service in the British regional media. Barnaby also writes on classical music and film for a number of publications. Barnaby manages the editorial and reporting teams and works closely with the analyst teams, to ensure that all content meets high standards of quality and relevance. He also writes for the site occasionally, mostly on science-related issues, and is a member of the Association of British Science Writers.

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