Spotlight Article: Belgian Alliance for a Smoke Free Society welcomes three new measures bringing us another step towards a smoke free generation
Wednesday, 24 July 2019
Plain packaging for cigarettes and rolling tobacco will be a reality in Belgium as of 1 January 2020. The Belgian Alliance for a Smoke Free Society congratulated the Minister of Health De Block and her administration as this measure is crucial for allowing children to grow up smoke free and to protect them from tobacco addiction.
Research shows that plain packaging makes cigarettes much less attractive for young people. When it comes to cigarettes, it is all about the brand image. Today, this is mainly expressed through the cigarette packaging, which has become an advertisement itself. Young people are the most sensitive to image, new designs and innovative packaging. Research also shows that neutral packages discourage young people from starting to smoke, although their full effect will only become clear in the longer term. They contribute to the denormalization of tobacco and deprive the package of all glamour. The following generations of children will no longer have to deal with the cigarette pack as a marketing tool. In addition, neutral packaging has other beneficial effects: they increase the visibility and the effect of the health warnings on the packages and encourage smokers to quit.
Just a few weeks before the publication of the Royal Decree on plain packaging, the Belgian Parliament also approved two other measures which help to achieve the Alliance’s ambition to create a society where every child born as of 2019 has the right to grow up free of smoke. The first one is that, following a number of other European countries, now Belgium also has a legal ban on smoking in the car when minors are present. No less than 91% of the Belgian population wants a smoking ban in cars if there are children. Even 84% of smokers support this measure. Flanders had recently introduced a similar ban but only for children up to the age of 16, while in Wallonia there was a ban for children under the age of 18. With this federal measure, there is clarity and all minors throughout the country are protected against second-hand smoke in cars. The Belgian Parliament also adopted the measure to increase the age of buying tobacco to 18 years. As of 1 January 2019, Belgium was the only country in the European Union where young people under the age of 18 could still buy cigarettes. This is not something to be proud of and, fortunately, this exceptional position has now been corrected. Research shows that the earlier young people start smoking, the sooner they become addicted to nicotine and the harder it is to stop later.
Meanwhile, Belgium had elections at the end of May and we are waiting for new governments to be formed. Although we are very pleased that these three measures out of the Alliance’s Memorandum (French version) have been adopted, the work is not done. On the contrary! The next federal and regional governments need to adopt an ambitious and coherent anti-tobacco plan in order to make sure that every child born in 2019 can claim in 2037:'I belong to the first Smoke Free Generation’.
Article by Danielle van Kalmthout, Coordinator of the Belgian Alliance for a Smoke Free Society
The Alliance for a Smoke Free Society, the organization behind Generation Smoke Free, is an initiative of Kom op tegen Kanker, the Belgian Foundation against Cancer, the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living, the Flemish Association for Respiratory Healthcare and Tuberculosis Control (VRGT), the Belgian Cardiology League, the League of Families (Gezinsbond), l’Association the Fonds des affections respiratoires (FARES), Service d'Etude et the Prévention du Tabagisme (SEPT) and the Observatoire de la Santé du Hainaut (OSH). The Alliance for a Smoke Free Society wants the next government to issue a coherent package of measures. These measures must prevent children from starting to smoke and become addicted to tobacco products and better help smokers to get rid of their addiction. Dozens of health organizations, medical associations, municipalities, financial institutions, … have signed a Charter subscribing the mission and vision of the Alliance for a Smoke Free Society.