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“If the law allows young people to have sex at 16, why prohibiting cigarettes? At 16, they are adult.” -M. De Block
The opposition is putting the Minister of Health, Maggie De Block (Open VLD) under pressure to take anti-tobacco measures in the country. In their target, the fact that 16 is still the legal age to purchase tobacco cigarettes while most neighbour countries prohibit the sale of tobacco to the under-18s.

Another constraint, the forthcoming implementation of the TPD, as required by the European Commission.

The opposition parties point out incoherences in the current anti-smoking plan like a ban on nicotine e-liquids while tobacco cigarettes remain accessible above 16 years old. Her response to the Flemish media has shocked the audience when she made the association of having sex and smoking.

Last week, the CD&V, made two propositions to the government in order to strengthen anti-tobacco policy: To (1) raise legal age for tobacco from 16 to 18 years old and (2) increase the price of cigarettes by 50% before 2019.

The Flemish Democrate Christians Party also proposes plain packaging and a blanket ban on advertising as well as a ban of flavored cigarettes as early as possible, since it will become applicable in Europe by 2020. For the e-cigarette, they must be subject “correct excise duties”, they declare, in order to prevent them from making the act of smoking attractive or rewarding.

Another Flemish party from the majority, the N-VA, supports CD&V for prohibiting tobacco sale to the under-18s.

The tobacco experts support the scenario of an abrupt raise of tobacco cigarettes and recall that only a strong change is susceptible to impact smokers’ mind to help reduce smoking. The benefit of the e-cigarette in terms of smoking risk reduction has been debated by the Belgian Health experts in October 2015 and their benefit on public health, even for dual user is scientifically established.

“Belgium is so small that everybody would go abroad to purchase their cigarettes.” -M. De Block
The Minister of Health reacted publicly by approving the plain packaging but for the rest, she remains cautious, especially for the raise of the legal age. The ministry of health is working on the subject and declared, earlier this month, that concrete measures would be taken soon according to Mathieu Capouet, from the cabinet of the Federal Minister. According to the latter, the Minister is drafting a royal decree to authorize the sale of nicotine e-liquid, in compliance with the Art.20 of the EU TPD. Will it also include measures to prevent the under-18s from accessing to tobacco cigarettes?

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