We find them everywhere. In a few clicks or by pushing open the door of a night shop, nicotine sachets (not to be confused with snus) are very easily accessible and often come from counterfeit products for five or six euros. For several months now, health professionals have been alarmed by the growing popularity among young people of “snus”, a Swedish chewing tobacco.
Pouche nicotine sachets banned in Belgium: good news to protect young people?
Tobacco manufacturers quickly jumped into the breach to sell these nicotine sachets, an often flavored product that can be placed under the upper lip to allow the diffusion of nicotine into the blood.
This is the case of British American Tobacco (BAT), one of the largest producers of tobacco and cigarettes in the world, which has also noticed the expansion of a parallel market in Belgium. After visiting around a hundred stores in recent weeks, they noticed that counterfeits of its nicotine sachet products were increasingly present in night shops and now even at other retailers.
We recommend their use with a view to reducing smoking, while introducing a progressive regulatory framework.”
“In one week, we visited 100 stores and in 25% of them, we found this type of product of which we do not know the origin or even the exact content, we realize that the phenomenon has been growing since the beginning of September, underlines Javier Alvarez, the Belux country manager of British American Tobacco. These counterfeits therefore reproduce BAT’s packaging almost identically but without any assurance of the quality of the product. Added to this phenomenon is the fact that via digital platforms, it is increasingly easy to buy nicotine sachets with very high concentrations (up to 120 milligrams). Given the upward trend in demand, we risk facing a public health problem.”
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A ban but a lot of questions
Faced with this situation, the authorities are concerned about seeing an underground market expanding in Belgium, particularly through the development of uncontrolled sales. From October 1, these nicotine sachets can no longer be sold here, under a royal decree taken last March.
As part of the anti-tobacco plan signed by the Federal Minister of Health and 23 other ministers, a decree was published on March 14, announcing a ban on the sale of these sachets. The nicotine level of this tobacco-free product can reach up to 90 mg, almost nine times the level of a normal cigarette. Several scientific studies have highlighted various health risks, particularly for young people. They actually contain enough nicotine to cause dependence and have a harmful effect on the brain.
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For Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, these nicotine sachets, like electronic cigarettes and vaping, can be a springboard to smoking at an early age. For its part, British American Tobacco has decided to contact the Council of State to request the annulment of the royal decree prohibiting the sale of these products. The tobacco giant deplores that the “minister did not sufficiently take into account recent scientific research carried out in the United Kingdom and Germany on the effects of nicotine sachets and the opinion of Belgian health experts”.
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All alternative forms of tobacco make our young people even more addicted”
“Sweden is, for example, in the process of being recognized as a smoke-free country (therefore below 5% of smokers according to the WHO) due to the significant drop in its percentage of smokers and in particular thanks to the use of these sachets , indicates Javier Alvarez. With this upcoming ban in Belgium, we will face the rise of these criminal gangs which are already developing these illicit sales and which risk exploding, while depriving themselves of controlled and certified products which meet European requirements. Which therefore goes in the opposite direction to the federal strategy on this subject. For our part, we recommend their use with a view to reducing smoking, while introducing a progressive regulatory framework as was the case for vaping, all in order to encourage adult smokers to change their mode of consumption. .
But for Didier Cataldo, professor at ULiège and pulmonologist, these products serve above all to appeal to young people. “It is obvious that all alternative forms to smoking, such as electronic cigarettes, are making our young people even more addicted to tobacco,” he explains. These products remain harmful and the tobacco industry has understood that it is necessary to address this public with colorful shapes, a cool and different character. The goal is clear: to charm young people and encourage them to consume. It is therefore important to control or prohibit this type of incentive. Nor is it a good way to administer nicotine to quit smoking. We have transcutaneous devices sold by pharmaceutical companies which are supervised and whose positive effects are proven, so we do not need this poorly regulated jungle whose sale is often done secretly.”
“A product aimed at young people”: what is really hidden behind nicotine sachets?
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