The planned Dutch flavour ban has been heavily criticised by consumer associations across the EU, including the Swedish NNA Sweden and the umbrella organisation ETHRA, European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates.
"The demand for flavours other than tobacco does not disappear just because you ban it. Developments in countries like Estonia and Denmark show that flavour bans only lead to a huge black market," ETHRA writes.
The Dutch government actually wanted to introduce its comprehensive flavour ban for e-cigarettes already last year. But doubts about which flavourings would remain allowed and a change of health minister delayed the introduction. The government has now asked for a final round of consultations before the ban comes into force. In total, almost 1000 individuals and organisations have contacted the government.
And the criticism has been harsh. ETHRArepresenting nearly 27 million European road users, organised through 25 organisations in 17 countries, says that the flavour ban will have devastating consequences.
"Removing adults' access to the most popular and effective smoking cessation tool will be negative for public health. Smoking will increase, especially in middle age and among the elderly - among the people most at risk of health damage from smoking. It will also undermine the legal e-cigarette industry in the Netherlands, and we predict that the black market will flourish," writes the report. ETHRA.
Flavour bans don't stop young people
NNA Sweden also fears that the black market will completely take over e-cigarettes in the Netherlands.
"As we see it, young people are not buying e-cigarettes on the open market. They get them through social media, but also from rogue traders in convenience stores. And it's not us saying this, it's the police. Organised criminals and drug dealers don't care about flavour bans or age limits.", he said. Karl-Åke Johansson to Vejpkollen.
Will taste like rotten wood
The Dutch flavour ban differs from similar proposals that have appeared before in different parts of the world. Instead of banning everything except so-called tobacco flavours, the government wants to allow only a few flavours. These should be neither too sweet nor 'appealing' and should remind the user of some kind of tobacco. A government inquiry has named 16 flavourings as suitable. The vast majority give notes of "wet hay" "rotting wood" and "burnt caramel" in the e-liquid and some of them are already used in some so-called "tobacco flavours". Niklas Linder, an e-juice manufacturer and an active member of the Electronic Cigarette Association, believes that the analysis made by the investigators is absolutely correct.
"If I was going to make an e-juice that absolutely NOBODY would buy, I would use those very ingredients," he says. Niklas Linder. "But on the other hand, that's the point of the flavour ban".
Could have EU-wide implications
Editor-in-Chief of Vejpkollen Stefan Mathisson has also commented on the Dutch flavour ban in the magazine Snusforumet.
"The risk of this ban, if it becomes a reality, is that it fuels the forces that also want to ban flavours at EU level. The European Tobacco Directive (TPD) will be revised in the near future and the issue of flavourings will be on the agenda. If EU politicians take the same line as the Dutch government, it would have enormous consequences, not only for users and companies, but for harm minimisation as a concept. Without a variety of flavours, not only smokers but also prospective smokers, young and old, will choose cigarettes over e-cigarettes. Do we really want that?" says Vejpkollen in Snusforum.