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"If everyone turns to e-cigarettes, we will have a major environmental problem"

While Belgium led the way in the fight against smoking, we are gradually losing the role. Tobacco expert Suzanne Gabriëls of the Foundation against Cancer is calling for more decisiveness on World No Tobacco Day. “It won’t work through the traditional ways.”

The World Health Organization chose to focus this year on the environmental impact of the tobacco industry. Does it have such negative ecological consequences?

“You need a lot of trees and water to cultivate tobacco and produce cigarettes. Moreover, that industry emits a lot of CO2. And if tomorrow everyone turns to e-cigarettes instead of regular cigarettes, you create an even bigger environmental problem. Smokers They don’t realize that, but they also have batteries in them. They often just throw those e-cigarettes away when they no longer work.”


Packages are more expensive

Parcels became anonymous and are increasingly expensive. Smoking is prohibited in some parks. Is that enough to discourage smoking? “Belgium was once in the leading group in terms of tobacco measures. We were the first country to put huge health warnings and the Tobacco Stop number on cigarette packs. But now it’s hard to say.Where to buy e cigarettes online? For example, smoking rooms can still be installed in the catering industry or at the workplace.

“In the Netherlands and France there are already much higher prices for cigarettes. In many countries, sellers are required to hide nicotine products in a cabinet rather than displaying them against a wall. You can then put up a sober poster with the prices, but it is especially important that the customer has to ask for a pack of cigarettes himself.

“It is still too easy for smokers to continue their bad habit with us. They should be given fewer incentives to continue smoking, so that the balance can turn.”


Could a smoking ban in public places with many children, as proposed by CD&V last year, contribute to this?

“When you issue a ban, you also have to see that you can enforce it. Smoking is increasingly associated with certain segments of society. The largest group comes from the lower socio-economic class. They often have negative life experiences and see smoking as a kind of outlet. We must try to involve the general public in our campaigns, for example through popular television programmes.

“At the same time, we must stop the rampant spread of new nicotine products. Especially disposable e-cigarettes in a thousand flavors and colors attract many young people. The tobacco industry bears a huge responsibility there. They promote those alternatives to convince people to stop. Instead of posing as the solution to the problem, they should be completely barred from all talks around an ambitious tobacco-control plan. It will not be possible to have a smoke-free generation by 2040 via the traditional roads.”


In New Zealand, no one born in 2010 or later is ever allowed to buy cigarettes. A good idea?

“What New Zealand is doing is a very interesting experiment that we are following closely. But in New Zealand there are anyway less people smoking than here. Moreover, they live on an island and are not bound by European regulations. Denmark had already announced that it wanted to do this, but the European Union should actually decide on this.

“So there will be a lot of lobbying first. Legally, such a generation ban could be regarded as discrimination. In the future, adults who are only a year apart may or may not be able to buy a cigarette. Before we argue for a generation ban here, we need to find out what the consequences would be.”