Stoptober: non-smoking stations and neutral cigarette packaging

Stoptober: non-smoking stations and neutral cigarette packaging

As 2020 heads into a new month, the Netherlands welcomes new stoptober-related rules - namely that platforms at train stations are now smoke-free, and that all tobacco products must now be sold in neutral packaging - in an attempt to deter smoking. 

Cigarettes and rolling tobacco in neutral packaging

From October 1, all cigarettes and rolling tobacco will be sold in neutral packaging as part of the National Prevention Agreement. The aim of the agreement is to encourage adults to smoke less, and to stop youngsters from starting. 

The new brown packaging will only contain the brand name and information about the product in a neutral font, and will still show unsettling photos to warn off buyers. Shops will be permitted to sell their old stock until it runs out, but all newly delivered products must meet the new packaging requirements. 

This neutral packaging is already in use in a number of European countries, including Belgium, France, and the UK. Research shows the brown packaging makes smoking less attractive and makes the health warning easier to read.

Non-smoking train platforms

Furthermore, from October 1, all stations and platforms across the Netherlands are smoke-free. Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) and ProRail have removed around 330 ashtrays (rookpaal: smoking post) from their platforms, and have donated the last one to the National Railway Museum.

Dutch stations have been non-smoking areas since 2004, and in September 2020, all smoking facilities on platforms were removed. In addition to taking these steps, NS and ProRail have banned the sale of tobacco in all their stores (i.e. Kiosk), and they will no longer enter into contracts with retailers who want to sell tobacco at stations.

Ans Rietstra, chief operating officer at ProRail, said: “I am proud of the step we are taking here as a rail sector. That has taken quite some effort, because it means quite a bit to people who smoke, but we all feel that now is the time. The cigarette no longer belongs at the stations. ”

Making quitting easier and starting harder

The Dutch government’s goals are to have fewer adults smoking, and to work towards a smoke-free generation by 2040 - meaning that no young person will smoke. 

A number of measures have been taken recently to work towards these goals. In April, the price of all tobacco products rose by one euro. And, since July 1, cigarettes and tobacco have been out of sight in all supermarkets (the shelves are behind doors and hidden from customers), and the indoor smoking ban has been extended to include e-cigarettes. 

Talking about the new packaging, State Secretary Paul Blokhuis, said: “In the Netherlands, 75 young people under the age of 18 still start smoking every day. Apparently, there is something that they find attractive about smoking despite all the health risks and warnings. That is why I will continue to do everything I can to make smoking as unattractive as possible.” 

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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