Earlier this month, a Dutch official indicated that the Netherlands is proposing extending its plain packaging requirements for cigarettes to products like cigars and e-cigarettes.

In a letter to Vera Bergkamp, the speaker of the Netherlands’ Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, Maarten van Ooijen—the Dutch State Secretary for health, welfare and sport—announced a variety of government proposals to reduce the consumption of tobacco and vaping products.

Cigars are barely mentioned, except that the government is planning on introducing plain packaging for cigars (translated):

In addition, it has been agreed in the NPA to reduce the attractiveness of the e-cigarette by introducing neutral packaging for the e-cigarette. The government intends to send the Order in Council on this matter to the House in the near future as part of the preliminary hearing procedure. This Order in Council also introduces neutral packaging for cigars. In the United States cigars are more popular among high school students than cigarettes 24 and we want to prevent the same from happening in the Netherlands.

As noted in the letter, the argument for this is based on a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that indicates that cigars are more popular than cigarettes for high school and middle school students in the U.S.

The European Cigar Manufacturers Association (ECMA) is an opposition to this rationale. In a press release, the trade group indicates that the study indicates that cigar consumption has actually decreased in the U.S. amongst that group, albeit, not at the same rapid decline as cigarettes.

Furthermore, the group points out that while products might be called “cigars,” many of the products that are mentioned in the CDC report are already illegal in the Netherlands. While the U.S. has few restrictions on how a cigar can be made, the Netherlands requires all cigars to use a natural leaf wrapper. This means that many of the most popular cigars in the U.S.—mass-market little cigars from brands like Swisher and White Owl—are forbidden in the Netherlands because they use a homogenized tobacco leaf wrapper, a process where tobacco is ground into a paste and then formed into large sheets almost like paper.

“As niche and occasionally consumed products, cigars play no part in smoking initiation of young Dutch people with ever fewer adults connoisseurs consuming them,” said Paul Varakas, director general of the ECMA, in a press release. “During this period during which cigars have been excluded from the scope of plain packaging, there has been no observed increase in cigar consumption in the Netherlands or in other countries with plain packaging. In fact, in these markets, cigars have continued a long-term downward trend in consumption. For these reasons, ECMA considers the introduction of plain packaging for cigars in parallel with e-cigarettes to be completely inappropriate and unjustified.”

While countries like Canada, Ireland and New Zealand have already introduced plain packaging, the Netherlands occupies a rather unique spot in terms of cigar packaging regulation. While plain packaging for cigarettes is already in effect, other tobacco products aren’t subject to the requirement. However, the Netherlands has banned the use of metallic foil in cigar packaging.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.