Belgium Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced measures to curtail tobacco consumption and ban the display of tobacco products, reports The Brussels Times.
About 24 percent of Belgians smoke, according to Cancer Foundation reports, and of smokers, one in five smoke daily. To help discourage smoking, the federal government previously announced plans to increase excise taxes on tobacco products.
The latest announcement will reduce points of sale—large supermarkets and festivals will no longer be able to sell cigarettes. Smoking in public spaces will also be restricted, and these new regulations will be effective Jan. 1, 2025.
The government says it will carry out widespread controls with heavy penalties for those who do not comply with the new rules, including forced closure.
The Belgian government’s goal is to reduce daily tobacco use to 10 percent of the population by 2028 and to 5 percent by 2040. Sciensano research predicts that these goals will be overshot; if the current rate continues, the 2028 targets will not be fully achieved by 2040.
Comeos, Belgium’s commerce federation, called the measures “pure hypocrisy,” and Philip Morris said the country’s government is “getting rich off the back of smokers” and that the measures will encourage the black market—Belgium is a known hub for counterfeit cigarettes.