Product safety board NVWA is going to clamp down on tobacco manufacturers who are bribing tobacconists to sell more cigarettes, the Telegraaf reports.
The illegal bonuses can go up to as much as €3,000 a year if tobacconists manage to sell a previously agreed number of cigarettes, the paper said.
The practice is illegal, the NVWA said, because it contravenes the advertising ban on cigarettes. The watchdog found out about the illegal payments last year when journalists queried tobacconists in Nijmegen and Amsterdam about the practice.
Tobacco firms can expect an initial fine of €45,000 and repeat offenders can be fined up to €450,000. The NVWA will also be looking possible illegal deals with petrol stations and supermarkets, the organisation said in a statement.
Junior health minister Paul Blokhuis said the practice is ‘worrying as it is aimed at keeping smokers addicted’. He said he is happy the NVWA is giving off a clear signal that the illegal contracts between retailers and manufacturers will not be tolerated.
Of the ten tobacconists involved in the scheme, most were franchises of big chains, which, apart from bonuses to the shopkeeper, were given an additional payment in the form of free cigarettes. They will escape a fine, however, because the initiative came from the manufacturers, the paper said.
The NVWA does have the tobacconists in its sights for selling cigarettes to people under the age of 18, however, and is planning to continue to use mystery guests to check if retailers stick to the rules.
Earlier experiments showed that 17-year-olds, despite showing an ID, were sold cigarettes in 35% of cases. Tobacconists who transgress can expect fines from January 1 2020, the NVWA said.
The Dutch government is trying to discourage smoking and among the measures in the prevention programme Preventieakkoord is the closure of designated smoking spaces in public buildings and companies, which will come into effect in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
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