Dutch government too close to the tobacco lobby?

In the Netherlands, politicians have partially reversed its anti-smoking legislation, allowing some small bars to become smoking environments again.

Dutch government & Tobacco lobby

This led to allegations that the tobacco lobby has excessive influence over the government and its policy making, crushing public health concerns to maintain lucrative revenues. It emerged that the Dutch government has held several meetings with tobacco lobbyists, in an apparent violation of the World Health Organisation's international tobacco control treaty (which banned any communication in which the tobacco lobby could influence government policy).

 Professor Onno van Schayck | University of Maastricht

Health critics responded with fury. Professor Onno van Schayck from the University of Maastricht, blasted the communication between the government and the tobacco lobby: "If you want to control malaria you don't invite the mosquitoes to negotiate with you on these issues. This is so illogical. It is absolutely irresponsible what they're doing, it's not a health policy not at all."

› Anne Mulder | VVD party

However, Anne Mulder, member of the ruling VVD party in the Dutch Parliament, defended her dialogue with lobbyists: "It's a legal product, I think it's right I speak to everyone and that's what I'm doing. I don't have any problem speaking to the lobbyists. If you want to make policy you have to speak to people on all sides then make your own decision."

The health department has subsequently justified the policy retrenchment on grounds of personal freedoms, claiming the original proposals were too restrictive for a liberal society. Mulder argued: "I am a liberal and as a liberal I believe people should be free to choose if they want to smoke or not."

Tobacco industry & The Dutch economy

Cynics question those motives, proposing that the economic clout of the tobacco industry has constricted a policy initiative that should had been made on health grounds.

In Bergen Op Zoom, the Philip Morris factory employs 1.400 workers, producing 80 billion cigarettes a year. The tobacco industry contributes around 2,4bn euros annually to the Dutch economy, a financial contribution that cannot be dismissed - especially in this troubled economic climate.

Do you agree with the relaxed policy? Or should the Netherlands had followed France and the UK in maintaining a stronger stance on public health?

James Shaw


James Shaw

James is an assistant editor at IamExpat, and is the newest member of the team. Interests include travelling, parties, and his beloved Manchester United. From Manchester, UK, but now living...

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