A majority of Dutch MPs in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch Parliament, want to give more power to municipalities to reduce the number of tobacco shops in neighborhoods. State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen (Public Health) is now tasked with executing the proposal he previously criticized. He would rather focus on national policies to reduce tobacco sales in fewer locations.
Anne Kuik (CDA) and Eva van Esch (PvdD) noted that health disparities increase because tobacco is more readily available with more outlets located in poor neighborhoods. Therefore, the members of parliament are recommending a licensing requirement for tobacco shops, and allowing municipalities to determine a maximum number per neighborhood.
According to Kuik, this issue will become particularly relevant next year because supermarkets will no longer be allowed to sell tobacco. She fears that tobacco shops will pop up next to supermarkets, serving only to shift the problem. By reducing the number of stores, she hopes it will tempt fewer smokers from taking up the habit. “It has been shown that seeing smoking encourages smoking,” said Kuik.
State Secretary Van Ooijen does not think this is a good idea because he believes it is difficult to regulate it by law. According to him, existing national policy can already ensure that the number of tobacco stores is reduced, especially in poorer neighborhoods where relatively more tobacco is sold.
Kuik argued that poorer groups are barely affected by the national policies against tobacco. For example, national campaigns to discourage smoking are more likely to affect highly-educated people.
The authors of the motion pointed to a similar plan for an approach to fast food chains that the Cabinet is working on. However, the situation is different in this case, Van Ooijen said, as tobacco is only sold to adults, and various regulations already make tobacco sales points unattractive.
The Tweede Kamer also adopted several other motions to ensure that the Dutch smoke less. For example, a majority supported a proposal by D66 and ChristenUnie to give e-cigarettes a boring appearance, making them less attractive to young people. The parliament also called on the Cabinet to do more to discourage people from smoking hashish and marijuana.