Tobacco lobby used ruling party to influence smoking policy: report

Despite the negotiations around the National Prevention Agreement being specifically designed to keep the tobacco industry and tobacco sellers from influencing it, the tobacco lobby managed to do just that, according to research by journalists from The Investigative Desk. The researchers called ruling party VVD a “lead actor” in getting big tobacco’s wishes into the prevention agreement, Follow The Money and NOS reported.

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which the Netherlands signed, states that when taking tobacco measures, there needs to be no ordinary weighing of interests, but public health must be leading. Based on the FCTC, State Secretary Paul Blokhuis of Pubic Health excluded both directly interested parties, like the tobacco industry, as well as trade organizations VNO-NCW, MKB-Nederland and the central bureau for food retail CBL from the negotiations for the National Prevention Agreement.

Despite this, VNO-NCW, MKB-Nederland and CBL were able to use their contacts in various Ministries to impose their will in the Agreement. According to the researchers, the VVD played a leading role in representing the interest of the sector. One day before the presentation of the National Prevention Agreement, the VVD persuaded the other coalition parties to water down, delay or completely scrap a number of measures.

The confidential first draft of the National Prevention Agreement stated that excise duty would gradually increase to at least 10 euros in 2023, according to the researchers. Instead, a packet of cigarettes became 1 euro more expensive this year. Before the price can be increased further, the effects of this price increase must first be evaluated.

Specialist tobacco shops and about 150 convenience stores have also been exempted from the ban on displaying tobacco products. And where the draft stated that all tobacco products would be sold in neutral packaging, cigars and e-cigarettes have now been exempted from that for at least two years.