Cigarettes will soon be almost impossible to buy: ‘Quitting will become easier’

Four Jumbo stores will no longer sell cigarettes, rolling tobacco and vapes in two weeks. And from next year it will be banned for all supermarkets. A good start, says professor of tobacco control Marc Willemsen. Although those few shops are not making any progress yet. “One store doesn’t make a difference, that’s more of a statement.” But if tobacco is no longer available in any supermarket, that certainly helps. This will make it easier for many people to quit smoking, says Willemsen.

From 1 July 2024, supermarkets in our country will no longer be allowed to sell smoking products. From 2030 this is no longer allowed at petrol stations and two years later no longer at convenience stores. All of this should contribute to the goal of no young people taking up smoking by 2040.

Various organizations and shops have already introduced the ban. For example, the sale of tobacco products is no longer permitted in new rental agreements that the NS concludes for shops in the stations. Lidl already stopped selling cigarettes in October 2021. And the four Jumbo stores will also stop in two weeks, in preparation for the national ban.

“In areas where there are many tobacco points, there is more smoking.”

“From 2032 you can ultimately only buy tobacco in specialty shops,” says Marc Willemsen. He is professor by special appointment of tobacco control at Maastricht University and Head of the Tobacco Program at the Trimbos Institute. “The intention is to reduce the number of points of sale, so that we are confronted with tobacco less often.”

According to the professor, fewer outlets mean that it will be easier for people to stop smoking. “Research shows that if the number of points of sale decreases by ten percent, the number of smokers decreases by half to one percent. In areas where there are many tobacco outlets, people smoke more.”

According to Willemsen, this is because the threshold for obtaining tobacco is then higher. “If someone has to walk or cycle further to a point of sale, it is easier to stay away from cigarettes. An impulse purchase is no longer possible. It also helps people who are trying to quit smoking. If they suddenly cannot buy tobacco in the supermarket, it helps to resist the temptation.”

Incidentally, it is not only because of fewer outlets that people are smoking less. “If such a measure is introduced, there may be an excise increase or other measure at the same time. That also contributes.”

“As far as I’m concerned, it could be a bit more ambitious.”

And although it is good news that there are already four Jumbo stores that no longer sell tobacco, according to Willemsen it will not have much effect yet. “One store doesn’t make the difference, that’s more of a statement. What matters now is that all supermarkets throughout the Netherlands stop selling. That will have to make the difference. Supermarkets have a large share in the total number of sales outlets, just like gas stations and convenience stores.”

In any case, the professor expects that we will achieve the target of 2040, a smoke-free generation. From then on, young people should no longer start smoking and a maximum of five percent of all people will smoke. “It is still quite far in the future. As far as I’m concerned, it could be a bit more ambitious. Why not 2035? We see that the number of smokers is decreasing anyway. If you continue that line, you can get close to that.”

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