Health minister opposes tougher tobacco rules, says RTL news

European plans to put ‘gruesome’ photographs on cigarette packets and ban vending machines are opposed by Dutch health minister Edith Schippers, RTL news reports on Monday.

The minister’s position contradicts formal advice from the public health institute RIVM and is out of line with other EU countries, the broadcaster says.
The European Commission is due to come up with new rules on tobacco sales this autumn, but Schippers has already said she ‘sees nothing’ in the plans. ‘The Netherlands is critical of placing photographs on packets’, RTL quotes her as saying. The RIVM favours the move, saying research shows ‘gruesome’ photos are more effective than written warnings.
She also states proposals to ban cigarette vending machines in cafes and clubs would be ‘too much of a burden’ for the sector.
Anti-tobacco lobby group Stivoro says the minister’s position is ‘incomprehensible’. ‘The Netherlands would appear to let commercial interests prevail above the interests of public health,’ a spokesman said.
Stivoro said earlier this month the number of smokers in the Netherlands will have risen to 26.2% of the adult population by the end of this year.
Government policy
In 2011, the percentage of over-18s who smoke was 25%, but that will go up by 170,000 people this year, research by TNS Nipo shows.
The organisation blames the increase on the relaxation of the smoking ban in small cafes and the removal of help with stopping smoking from the basic health insurance package. The minister has also halved government funding for Stivoro from next year.
RTL quotes Schippers as saying she is following ‘a well-considered smoking strategy in which the protection of public health and measures to discourage tobacco use are balanced with the importance of individual responsibility and freedom of choice.’
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