Netherlands – Confirmed Upcoming Legislation on Plain Packaging

Following a meeting of the Council of Minister, the Dutch Government announced on 7 June 2024 that the upcoming proposal to introduce plain packaging for e-cigarettes will also include the introduction of neutral packaging for cigars citing US market developments as a justification. 

Cigars constitute special tobacco products with unique production characteristics and patterns of consumption – characteristics shared with other traditional tobacco products which have been explicitly excluded from the scope of the proposed legislation. 

The reference of US studies to justify a measure applicable on the Dutch market is intrinsically wrong. Not only the latest US figures reveal that cigar consumption among US middle and high school students has decreased in the last few years, but it also omits the fact that the US health authority (FDA) has been recently found of having acted arbitrarily and capriciously by not addressing the very same data before it. 

As niche and occasionally consumed products, cigars play no part in smoking initiation of young Dutch people with also less and less adults connoisseurs consuming them. While excluded from the scope of plain packaging, no increase of consumption has been observed in the Netherlands or in other countries with cigars continuing their downward declining trend. For these reasons, ECMA will continue to vigorously make the case that the introduction of plain packaging for cigars in parallel with e-cigarettes is greatly inappropriate and unjustified. 

The extreme interpretation of Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control practiced in the Netherlands – not allowing any reasonable and evidence-based dialogue with the tobacco industry – leads exactly to these types of ill-informed regulation”, ECMA Director General, Paul Varakas stated. 

Facts on EU cigars/cigarillos 

  • Cigars/cigarillos continue to decrease on EU market; only representing 1.6% of the total EU tobacco market
  • Cigars/cigarillos are not products associated with starting smoking. Eurobarometer 2020 found that all respondents in the Netherlands who have tried tobacco products, the most common first experience of tobacco is by far cigarettes followed by hand- rolled cigarettes
  • Eurobarometer 2020 also found that “only 1% of smokers smoke cigarillos, cigars or pipes on a daily basis; these tobacco products are more likely to be smoked on an occasional basis or tried only once or twice.” The report concludes that “other tobacco products like cigars, cigarillos and pipes are consumed regularly only by a minority.”
  • Dutch cigar/cigarillo smokers have a specific and well-documented consumer profile and are mainly consumed by older consumers and small groups of the population


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