The Belgian Parliament has passed a Government Decree which will ban the sale of nicotine pouches from 1 October 2023. The decision will deny millions of Belgian smokers a less harmful way of consuming nicotine.

The explanatory note for the Decree state that “The aim of the ban is to prevent the known and potential adverse health effects of the use of such new products, to curb youth use and to avoid potential negative impacts on tobacco control efforts… Nicotine pouches serve as a substitute for classic tobacco-based products and can produce similar health risks and societal impacts. In particular, they have a very similar presentation and effect to snus, a tobacco-based product that has already been banned. There is therefore a real chance that a user of nicotine bags will switch to snus.

The NNPA considers the decision of the Belgian law makers to be very disappointing, disproportionate, and illogical. Recent scientific studies suggest modern oral nicotine pouches have a toxicant profile that is comparable to nicotine replacement therapy products (NRT)[1].

We fully agree that no nicotine products should be sold to minors but to remove this option from the market will, by definition, push any adult consumer of nicotineback to more risky lifestyle choices.

The potential reduction of risk for those who could have preferred nicotine pouches to other alternatives will now be close to zero in Belgium, except for those consumers that resorts to cross border and “under the desk” purchases.

It is also noteworthy that the motivation for this very uncompromising decision is to avoid users of nicotine pouches to switch to snus. Snus is a traditional oral tobacco product that is banned in the EU (except Sweden) and that has never been available on the Belgian market. As such the risk for an increase of snus use in Belgium under present conditions should be negligible. It should also be mentioned in this context that snus has been a part of a very successful tobacco harm reduction strategy in Sweden resulting in the lowest incidence of daily smokers in the EU.

The NNPA therefore strongly believes that the decree will have a negative net effect on public health and hope that the Belgian law makers will revise this decision as soon as possible.

[1] Azzopardi D, et al. Chemical characterisation of tobacco-free ‘modern’ oral nicotine pouches and their position on the toxicant and risk continuums. Drug & Chemical Toxicology, 2021.

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