In a puzzling move, the Belgian government has set an ambitious target: to reduce the number of daily tobacco users among people aged 15 and over to a mere 5% by 2040. While this goal signifies a commendable effort toward a healthier society, their recent decision to ban nicotine pouches raises significant concerns. This prohibition directly contradicts the successful approach adopted by Sweden, a country that achieved the same 5% smoking prevalence in 2023.
Sweden’s achievement is attributed to their endorsement of tobacco harm reduction strategies, which include promoting safer alternatives like snus and nicotine pouches. By allowing these alternatives, Sweden has empowered its citizens with choices that drastically reduce the harm associated with traditional smoking. The question that arises then is: how does Belgium plan to achieve its low smoking rate goal by banning safer alternatives, the very tools that proved effective in other countries?
Belgium’s decision seems counterintuitive, especially in light of Sweden’s success story. It raises concerns about the coherence of the country’s public health policies. To truly make progress in reducing smoking rates, it is essential for policymakers to consider evidence-based approaches that have worked in other nations. Embracing harm reduction strategies and allowing access to safer alternatives could be a crucial step toward achieving Belgium’s laudable goal. The world is watching, waiting to see if Belgium will rethink its stance and learn from the success of countries like Sweden in the pursuit of a healthier, smoke-free future.