In its letter to Parliament regarding the Strategy for a Nicotine free society, the Dutch State Secretary Van Ooijen announced on 2 December 2022 that the upcoming proposal to introduce plain packaging for e-cigarettes will also include the introduction of neutral packaging for cigars citing a 2020 US CDC study on Tobacco Products Use Among Middle and High School Students as a justification.
Responding to this decision, ECMA Director General, Paul Varakas stated “Cigars constitute special tobacco products with unique production characteristics and patterns of consumption – characteristics shared with other traditional tobacco products excluded from the scope of the proposed legislation.
The reference of a US study to justify a measure applicable on the Dutch market is intrinsically wrong. Not only do the latest US figures reveal that cigar consumption among US middle and high school students has shrunk by 33% in 2 years, but the Dutch authorities have also neglected to note the fact that cigars placed on the Dutch market greatly differ from those found in the US with the mandatory use of a natural wrapper leaf. Additionally, European and Dutch consumption studies paint a completely different picture concerning cigar consumption when compared to the US.
As niche and occasionally consumed products, cigars play no part in smoking initiation of young Dutch people with ever fewer adults connoisseurs consuming them. During this period during which cigars have been excluded from the scope of plain packaging, there has been no observed increase in cigar consumption in the Netherlands or in other countries with plain packaging. In fact, in these markets, cigars have continued a long-term downward trend in consumption. For these reasons, ECMA considers the introduction of plain packaging for cigars in parallel with e-cigarettes to be completely inappropriate and unjustified”.
Finally, 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 regulations”,.
Facts on EU cigars/cigarillos
• Cigars/cigarillos continue a long-term decrease in the EU market, where they represent only 1.6% of the total EU tobacco market
• Cigars/cigarillos are not products associated with smoking initiation. The Eurobarometer Report for 2020 found that, of 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.”
• EU cigar/cigarillo smokers have a specific and well-documented consumer profile, mainly characterized by smaller groups of older consumers who are generally well aware of the risks associated with smoking.