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The sale of cannabinoid pouches in Belgium has been banned by a royal decree that mainly prohibits nicotine pouches on the grounds they pose a danger to public health, particularly due to their potential for addiction.

Federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke, a member of the centre-left Vooruit party, issued the royal decree – a Belgian legislative move used to swiftly implement an action under the responsibility of the issuing minister.

The decree will come into effect on 1st July 2023, when it is set to be published in the official journal. For retailers, the sales ban will apply from 1st October.

The royal decree, published on 24th March, states: “The objective of the ban is to prevent the known and potential harmful effects of using these new products on health, to discourage their use by young people, and to avoid any negative consequences on efforts to combat smoking.”

According to research by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), nicotine pouches contain enough nicotine to cause addiction and have a harmful effect on the brain, especially in young people.

Vandenbroucke adds that there is also a lack of social control by parents over the consumption of these products among young people, which can perpetuate potential addiction, and the decree says: “In addition, due to their low body weight, children are more sensitive to unwanted side effects.”

 

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    Anticipating what the future could hold

     

    The health minister says about the ban on cannabinoid pouches that “for CBD products, there is less information available, but because of the great similarities (appearance, mode of use), this is also prohibited”. This could mean a less bleak future for cannabinoid pouches once more information is gathered.

    Could Europe now expect to see a wider ban? The Belgian government notified a proposal to ban the manufacture and marketing of cannabinoid and nicotine pouches to the TRIS database in June 2022, to which Croatia, Hungary and Sweden reacted negatively.

    Hungary and Sweden are among the countries that manufacture nicotine pouches. Industry association Tobacco Europe also criticised the proposal. CannIntelligence asked Vandenbroucke what impact such criticisms could have, but he did not respond to the request.

    With conflicting viewpoints and ongoing debates, it will be up to policy-makers and regulators to navigate these contentious waters and determine any future course of action.

    – Sonia Romero CannIntelligence contributing writer

    Photo: Bibhash Banerjee

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    CannIntelligence

    This article was written by one of CannIntelligence’s international correspondents. We currently employ more than 40 reporters around the world to cover individual cannabis and cannabinoid markets. For a full list, please see our Who We Are page.