Will Belgium’s Smoking Cessation Strategy be Effective?

While amendments to Belgium’s current tobacco laws aim to reduce smoking rates, experts highlight that these are missing a crucial element.

Belgium’s Health Minister, Frank Vandenbroucke, has recently unveiled a series of measures aimed at combatting smoking, including banning tobacco product displays and restricting sales at large supermarkets and festivals. Belgium struggles with high smoking rates, with 24% of the population being current smokers. These result in approximately 14,000 smoking-related deaths annually.

The Belgian government aims to increase tobacco taxes, with a €1 increase in the cost of a 20-cigarette pack, generating an extra €50 million in annual tax revenue. By enforcing these new regulations, the government aims to achieve a “smoke-free generation.” The regulations should take effect on January 1st, 2025, and they include substantial penalties for non-compliance.

However, Sciensano research suggests that Belgium is unlikely to achieve its smoking reduction targets. Moreover, there are widespread concerns that price hikes will not deter French smokers. Despite these expert opinions, Belgium is determined to press on with the changes.

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