Netherlands Bans Distance Selling Of E-Cigarettes

netherlands ban online sales of e-cigarettes

As of 2022, there were reported to be at least 400,000 active users of E-Cigarettes in the country of the Netherlands, according to Dutch vaping advocacy group Advoca. In a recent survey conducted by Advoca in partnership with Esigbond, over 75% of those surveyed (3000+) admitted that they would still be smoking cigarettes if it wasn’t for the discovery of E-Cigarettes and Nicotine containing E-Liquid and having easy access to them.

However, the Dutch Government have introduced new laws that have turned the Vaping Industry on it’s head and have now made it practically impossible for people to access what they have previously been able to.

A complete ban on the production and sale of flavoured e-liquid was first bought to light back in 2021, and was due to take effect in July of that year, but two postponements saw the date pushed back to July 1st 2023, where it has now come into effect, meaning that e-liquid can only be produced and sold using ingredients on a pre-approved list as put together by the Dutch Government.

What has also come into effect is the law that now forbids “distance selling” of tobacco and tobacco related products, including E-Cigarettes in the Netherlands also effective from July 1st, 2023.

I want to share some of my thoughts on these bans and how it could potentially create a negative effect rather than a positive one, by people resorting to black market tactics to get what they have previously been accustomed to, or even worse, reverting back to smoking cigarettes.

e commerce cartoon

E-Commerce and The Vaping Market In The Netherlands

The E-Commerce market in current day is worth an absolute fortune, with the estimated value of it being worth nearly $5 TRILLION dollars worldwide as of 2021, with a projected growth of 50% in the next four years. The use of E-Commerce and people shopping online has skyrocketed over recent years, with many enjoying the convenience of ordering online or getting products at cheaper prices compared to the high street.

Looking at E-Commerce in the Netherlands, in the first half of 2022, the E-Commerce market was valued at approximately 16 billion Euros, with a market growth of almost 16% year on year from 2020. This puts the Netherlands in the number 7 spot for the largest E-Commerce market in Europe and makes up roughly 3% of their Gross Domestic Product.

The market value of E-Cigarettes and Vaping in the Netherlands is reported to be over 300 million Euro, so combined with the fact that the E-Commerce market in the Netherlands is valued at such a huge amount, it’s likely that the two combined will equate to a relatively large share of these totals.

From a simple search on Google of “Online Vape Retailers Netherlands” the results that are bought forward shows a large volume of pre-existing E-Cigarette E-Commerce sites that have a large offering of different vaping devices, e-liquids, coils, tanks and all other vaping peripherals. The prices remain competitive throughout against the RRP and most sites have good reviews from customers who have used these sites.

It shows that there is a huge demand and market for the sale of E-Cigarettes via online sellers, so the sudden shock announcement of the new law that forbids “Distance Selling” of all thing’s tobacco related has caused massive uproar and upset amongst the vaping constituency in the Netherlands.  

To clarify and explain it, Distance Selling means the sale of a product to somebody who is not physically present and may be a distance away from the location of the seller. This means that the sale of Tobacco products and tobacco related products by Web Shops, social media sites and also telephone sales would be against the law and is strictly forbidden. Dutch companies are also now not allowed to sell tobacco and tobacco related products to any consumers within the European Economic Area, which is countries in the European Union, but also including Iceland, Lichenstein and Norway.

cigarette and vape device banned

My personal thoughts on this new law that has been imposed forbidding the distance selling of E-Cigarettes are that this feels massively counterproductive and will likely have a huge negative effect rather than any sort of positive effect like what may be hoped would happen.

With such a huge volume of E-Cigarette users in the country of the Netherlands who are relying on having access to the essential tools needed to keep them on the right track and away from smoking cigarettes, imposing laws restricting this access is going to cause more harm than good.

The banning of flavoured vape juice was a blow to current vapers who may have wanted to steer clear of tobacco and tobacco flavoured vape juice by using different flavours of vape juice, but are now left stranded and with no choice but to only use the vape juice that is created by using the preapproved list of ingredients as enforced by the Dutch Government, which can only make tobacco flavoured vape juice.

And now a further blow has been delivered by banning online sales of E-Cigarettes and refills that contain nicotine, another thing that people may have been heavily relying on to get their essentials. There has to be some consideration taken in to account that people may rely on online shopping outlets to make their purchases, not just E-Cigarettes but anything they could need, because they may not have the ability to get out to bricks and mortar shops for one of what could be a multitude of reasons.

In the eyes of the Government who have bought this law to fruition, it may appear to them that they are creating a positive impact by limiting the access to E-Cigarettes to potentially underage users who may be trying to obtain these things from websites who do not have any form of age verification processes in place, when in reality what they are actually doing is punishing the hundreds of thousands of active E-Cigarette users in Netherlands by enforcing these laws and making what was previously an easy process now impossible and against the law.


E-Cigarette Retailers Preparing a Lawsuit Against The Government

I’m informed that a group of E-Cigarette retailers based in the Netherlands are preparing a lawsuit to file against the Dutch Government in light of the introduction of distance selling now being against the law, and I applaud the efforts being made for their voice to be heard.

I’ll always remain hopeful for a positive outcome for this lawsuit, but can’t help but feel it will fall on deaf ears, as despite their efforts it will likely be a “what we say goes” attitude from the Dutch Government.

I feel like this because referencing back to the flavour ban that has now passed as law, this was met with equal if not more upset by Dutch e-cigarette users and vaping advocacy groups and public consultation periods were launched by the Government for people to give their views and opinions on it, with the opposition against this ban taking effect. And whilst it did receive several delays and pushbacks, it’s ultimately the Government that have won and got what they wanted, with the law now being in effect of flavoured vape juice being banned within the country.

I hope that the awareness of what could now possibly happen will be taken into account by the Dutch Government. Making it now illegal to obtain flavoured vape juice, as well as E-Cigarettes and other associated products will potentially create a landslide of negative actions and create more problems for them to deal with.

Potential Negative Impacts Of The Bans

I’ll reference to what is happening in Australia at this present time in relation to the banning of e-cigarette related products. Australia’s Government banned the sale of nicotine containing vape juice back in 2021, with the reasonings for it being to protect the youths of the country from having easy access to nicotine products and not forming a new generation of nicotine addicts.

The only way to obtain nicotine containing vape juice in Australia is by getting a valid prescription from a registered Doctor, which can be submitted to a Pharmacy who will then make the nicotine vape juice to order. A year on from this, and it was discovered that only 1% of total GP’s in Australia could actually issue prescriptions, with many not aware how to become qualified to do so or not wanting to undergo the training in fear they may get something wrong and would then be liable should anything bad happen.

During this first year of the ban, black market sales of E-Cigarettes that contained nicotine absolutely sky rocketed. It’s reported that corner shops, petrol stations and even Uber drivers were selling Disposable Vape devices illicitly to desperate customers wanting access to nicotine without turning back to smoking cigarettes. Even criminal gangs got involved with the importing and selling of these illicit devices as it carried less punishment than other illegal activity.

smoking rates in netherlands

As with most countries, the smoking rates in the Netherlands has gradually declined over the last 5 or so years ever since the use of E-Cigarettes became popular and more prominent. People who were surveyed admitted that using E-Cigarettes kept them away from smoking, so if their access to essentials needed to continue vaping was restricted, they felt they would likely resort back to smoking cigarettes, and in turn this would cause the smoking rates to start going back up, when in reality the Government wants them to be continuing on a downward slope.

Every year, 20,000 people in Netherlands die from smoking related diseases such as Cancer, COPD or cardiovascular disease. The Government are quite aware of this and wants to discourage smoking and limit the amount of people who are exposed to second hand smoke, or passive smoking as it’s called.

So with these laws heavily limiting what E-Cigarette users can access, and how they can access it, it’s now going to potentially cause the complete opposite of their desires to discourage people from smoking. Instead it will push people away from using what is believed to be a healthier and safer alternative to cigarettes, and revert back to smoking.

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