Ten different tobacco companies have been making illegal payments to Dutch supermarkets to encourage them to display and sell their products in a certain way, the Dutch food and product safety board NVWA said on Thursday.
The payments varied between €10,000 to €2m a year, junior health minster Paul Blokhuis told MPs in a briefing. The tobacco companies are seen as the initiators of the illegal deals and will be fined between €45,000 and €450,000, Blokhuis said.
‘It is extremely worrying that supermarket chains are receiving payment from tobacco producers in order to promote the sale of cigarettes and associated products,’ he said.
‘In my talks with supermarkets the main topic has been their responsibility in promoting healthy choices for customers. The future is smoke free. Bonuses to boost tobacco sales are not consistent with this and will have to become a thing of the past as soon as possible.’
The payments were made in return for commitments on where the tobacco products were placed in shelves, on reaching sales targets and even for staff training, the report said.
In addition, spot checks among supermarkets to see if they are keeping to the ban on having cigarettes on display led inspectors to issue 32 fines, the minister said.
The NVWA carried out checks on 68 supermarkets and found two had done nothing to keep cigarettes from view while 30 had only done so partially.
‘Not all supermarkets complied completely and some, for instance, allowed cigarettes to be seen every time another product had to be taken from the shelf,’ the NVWA said.
They were given a €450 fine, which will mount up to €4,500 if the ban is flouted repeatedly. Five supermarkets were found to be in violation of the ban on ads.
Cigarettes have been banned from public display in supermarkets from July 1 and the measure will be extended to include petrol stations and other outlets from January 1. The sale of tobacco by supermarkets is set to be banned completely from 2024.
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