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Cigarette testing method may downplay tar, nicotine content, court rules

4 November 2022

Dutch News

There are ‘strong indications’ that filter cigarettes on sale in the Netherlands may break official EU limits on tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, judges in Rotterdam said on Friday.

The ruling, which derives from a European Court of Justice ruling in February, gives the Dutch food and product safety board NVWA six weeks to start ensuring the law is followed properly and that cigarettes do not exceed EU limits.

The court case follows tests carried out by public health institute RIVM in 2018 which showed the amount of tar in a cigarette can be up to 26 times the official norm and that nicotine and carbon monoxide levels are also far too high in most brands.

The RIVM tests were conducted by covering the small ventilation holes in the filter paper, a method that approaches the way cigarettes are actually smoked. The current official test method leaves these holes, put there by the tobacco industry, uncovered.

‘It is not up to the court to determine whether the method used by RIVM complies with the EU directive, but it is up to the European Commission to come up with a measurement method that does,’ the Rotterdam court said. ‘Until the European Commission does this … there is no guarantee that the filter cigarettes sold in the Netherlands comply with the directives.’

EU norms

Ex-smokers and medical associations said in 2018 they would go to court to have cigarettes that exceed European norms for nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide banned.

Wanda de Kanter of the anti-youth smoking body Stichting Rookpreventie Jeugd, said the ruling is ‘extremely important’ and that the court has effectively ended the use of fraudulent measurements for emissions of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide. 

‘This has enabled the tobacco industry to make and keep people addicted for years, but the ruling makes it clear this practice cannot last,’ she said. ‘The NVWA must immediately remove all cigarettes from the shelves.’

The NVWA has not yet commented on the ruling.

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