Vaping consumers and advocates have less than a week to take part in the Dutch government’s brief public consultation on a vape product flavor ban likely to put current manufacturers out of business next year. The deadline for making comments is Sept. 28.
The new law, which will ban all vape flavors except tobacco, is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2023—although products already on the market by Dec. 31 can be sold until July 1, 2023. The law will ban flavors in both nicotine-containing and zero-nicotine e-liquids, and applies to bottled e-liquid and prefilled products.
In June, Sweden’s parliament rejected a bill that would have banned vape flavors. Not including the Netherlands, six European countries have prohibited non-tobacco flavors. In Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary and Lithuania, flavored vape restrictions are already in place, and Ukraine’s flavor ban will take effect in July 2023. No European country has an outright ban on all vape products.
The new list of allowed ingredients = a stealth ban on all vapes
The consultation is a chance to specifically comment on a new amendment to the country’s Tobacco and Smoking Products Order that goes a step further than the previously announced flavor restrictions. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) and Ministry of Health have proposed a list of just 16 ingredients that would be allowed in legal tobacco-flavored e-liquids.
But manufacturers say the limited list of allowed ingredients would make developing new flavors impossible—including tobacco flavors.
According to Dutch vape advocates, the ingredient restrictions will essentially put all e-liquid manufacturers in the Netherlands out of business, since they would have to scrap their existing products and would be unable to reformulate their tobacco flavors using the new list of allowed flavorings.
How to respond to the Dutch consultation
Although the law will only directly affect the Netherlands, any government policy on a subject as controversial as vaping can have influence beyond the borders of the lawmaking country. That’s especially true in the European Union, where member countries routinely collaborate on health- and tobacco-related issues. As the British New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) points out, even UK vapers could be affected by flavor bans in EU countries.
Since the consultation is open to all, Dutch advocates are asking for comments from vapers and tobacco harm reduction supporters across the EU and even in other regions of the world.
The consumer umbrella organization European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA) has developed a guide to submitting comments to the consultation that makes the process simple. If you prefer to go it alone, you can directly access the Dutch consultation and related information, including the allowed ingredients list.
After you comment, encourage others on social media to do the same—and use the hashtag #smaaknoodzaak (taste necessity).
Dutch flavor ban background
In June 2020, the Netherlands’ then-health minister Paul Blokhuis informed the Tweede Kamer (the Dutch house of representatives) that the government would soon introduce a bill aimed at prohibiting vape products in all flavors except tobacco.
Blokhuis justified the proposed flavor ban using a government-commissioned study by the Trimbos Institute that leveraged cherry-picked science to back its claim that flavored vape products attract adolescent users. The study also claimed that “there is increasing evidence that the e-cigarette is a stepping stone to tobacco cigarettes,” despite the lack of any real-world evidence of a “gateway effect.”
The government launched a public consultation in December 2020, which received a record number of comments—almost all opposing the law—and vaping advocates also delivered to the government a petition signed by 19,000 consumers opposing the restrictions.
In May 2021, the outgoing Dutch cabinet (Council of Ministers) approved the flavor ban, despite massive opposition from vapers and the independent vaping industry, which was led by Dutch consumer vaping organization Acvoda and industry association Esigbond.
The law was scheduled to take effect July 1, 2022. Then in March 2022, Esigbond alerted the government that some of the original list of RIVM-approved ingredients were known carcinogens, so the Dutch cabinet postponed implementation of the law until 2023 while it revised the list.
Now the Dutch government will have to ignore a second round of opposition from vapers in the Netherlands and across Europe in order to implement its draconian response to teenage experimentation.