Smoking banned from train platforms as Stoptober campaign begins
Thursday was a difficult day for many tobacco users in the Netherlands, with smoking officially disallowed at all of the country's train stations and platforms, tobacco sales banned from station shops, and most tobacco products sold elsewhere will only be packaged in drab, muddy colors. Thursday also marks the start of Stoptober, an annual campaign where tens of thousands of people in the Netherlands try to quit smoking for a four-week period.
"As of today, all stations and platforms are non-smoking. ProRail and NS have donated the last smokers pole to the Railway Museum," national railway NS said. The last pole was removed from the Krommenie-Assendelft station and added to the museum's collection "because smoking at stations and on platforms is now a part of history."
Tobacco products were removed from train station retailers operated by the NS back in April, when the price of a pack of cigarettes went up by a euro and shag tobacco packages shot up by 2.40 euros. As of Thursday, independent retailers at the train stations were also forbidden from selling tobacco products.
Earlier in the year, the NS and ProRail began removing all of the cigarette butt receptacles from the station platforms, including the smokers poles and disposal grates. Over 14 years ago, smoking was outlawed in station halls, staircases, elevators and station tunnels.
"We are now talking about how strange it is that smoking was allowed on trains not too long ago. Soon we will hardly be able to imagine that there was ever smoking on platforms," said Paul Blokhuis, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.
Any cigarette and shag tobacco products sold in shops around the Netherlands may only be provided in muddy-colored brown and green packaging beginning on Thursday. This policy was put in place to prevent manufacturers from successfully marketing their products to younger people by using flashy colors, cartoon characters, heroic imagery and stylized logos.
"So you no longer see the well-known logos of camels or cowboys. Tobacco manufacturers have used those for years because people have positive associations with them," said Professor Carel Jansen in an interview with broadcaster NOS. "That is an image built up over decades which manufacturers may no longer use."
The color was selected because research showed that the particular shade of color creates a negative impulse in consumers, and could deter smokers from making the purchase. From 2022, the policy is also slated to take effect for cigar and e-cigarette packaging.
"It becomes difficult to find the right packages when they all look alike. It does take time," an employee of a Primera in Groningen told NOS.
Thursday, October 1, also marked the beginning of Stoptober. The annual program aims to provide support and a sense of unity among people who want to give up smoking. Organizers support all sorts of methods for kicking the habit, including the use of apps, reminders, medical aids, coaching, psychological consultation, and medical advice.
Nearly a fourth of smokers in the Netherlands started smoking more during the coronavirus crisis, while about ten percent reduced their consumption. Roughly nine percent of smokers said they would take up the Stoptober challenge, with some saying that the negative health impact caused by Covid-19 and reductions in income due to the economic crisis were key reasons for making the decision.