Sales of tobacco

Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

Do you sell tobacco, e-cigarettes and e-liquids? You are not allowed to sell these products everywhere and to everyone. You are not allowed to sell tobacco in a liquor store or online, there is an age limit and rules on packaging, for example.

The Dutch Tobacco Act (Tabakswet) contains rules designed to reduce the sale of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.

The Dutch Tobacco Act applies to:

  • tobacco (such as cigarettes, cut tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, water pipe tobacco)
  • electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) containing nicotine
  • e-cigarettes without nicotine (shisha pens)
  • refill containers for electronic cigarettes (e-liquids)
  • components of electronic cigarettes
  • electronic heating devices (such as vaporisers)

Age limit for tobacco products

  • You may only sell tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to people aged 18 and older. This must be displayed clearly for everyone to see.
  • The sale of e-cigarettes without nicotine to under-18-year-olds is prohibited.
  • The sale of non-nicotine-containing refill fluids and herbal mixes without nicotine for the waterpipe to under-18-year-olds is prohibited.
  • You cannot sell tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and refill containers to people aged 18 or older if you suspect they want to give or sell these products on to younger people.
  • You must ask for proof of ID to establish the person's age. This is not mandatory for those who are obviously older than 18.
  • Employees selling tobacco must be aged 16 years or older.

Flavoured cigarettes, e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes prohibited

The sale of flavoured cigarettes, cut tobacco, and click dual-flavoured cigarettes is prohibited (in Dutch). The sale and production of menthol cigarettes is also prohibited.

And the sale, production, and import of unnatural flavoured e-cigarettes and refill e-liquids, such as strawberry or mango, is banned as well. Tobacco flavours are still allowed.

Sale of single cigarettes prohibited

You are not allowed to take cigarettes out of a package to sell them by the piece.

Plain packaging

You may only sell cigarettes and rolling tobacco in plain, dark green-brown packages. Besides the mandatory health warnings (image and text), only the manufacturer's name, the type of cigarettes and barcode may be printed on the packet. The information must be set in a standard typeface. Stores may sell out their old stock. From 2022 this applies to cigars and e-cigarettes as well.

No displaying of packaging

You may not display tobacco products (in Dutch), for instance in a display, showcase, or on the counter. The outlines of the packets should not be visible either: the products should be kept so that they are not visible at all, for example in a cupboard or drawer. This includes electronic cigarettes and herbs intended for smoking. Any place used to store smoking products should be neutral looking: cupboards or drawers should be black, white or grey, should not contrast with the rest of the shop, and cannot be decorated in any way. You can display smoking accessories, such as ashtrays and lighters.

Specialist tobacco shops are in some cases exempted from the ban on displaying smoking products. For this, they need to be registered with the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA).

No advertising for tobacco products

Advertising or sponsoring (in Dutch) for tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, or any smoking implements, whether or not they contain tobacco, is prohibited. This also applies to advertising inside and outside of shops, such as convenience shops, that sell other products alongside tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and e-liquids. Tobacco advertising (displaying tobacco products) is only permitted inside registered specialised tobacconists or tobacco points of sale (in Dutch) and is subject to specific terms and conditions (in Dutch). The advertising must not be visible from outside the shop. You may not give away tobacco products or electronic cigarettes free of charge. For more information or questions, contact NVWA.

Vending machines

Cigarette or tobacco vending machines are prohibited in catering establishments (in Dutch) with an alcohol licence.

Cigarette (tobacco) vending machines are only allowed in selling points, such as supermarkets, petrol stations, and catering establishments that have no alcohol licence. To sell tobacco products via a tobacco vending machine you must make sure (in Dutch):

  • the vending machine can only be operated by the owner or staff of the establishment
  • you do not show the smoking products, there are no pictures of cigarettes on the machine, and the lighting is only functional
  • you do not advertise tobacco products
  • you check a buyer’s age

In specialist tobacco stores you are allowed to have a cigarette vending machine (in Dutch) if the vending machine:

  • is always locked
  • can only be unlocked in order to make a sales transaction for or by those who are 18 or older
  • is indoors and can be seen by the owner or staff

Ban on distance sales of tobacco

You are not allowed to sell tobacco products and related products, such as e-cigarettes and refill packs/cartridges, with and without nicotine, and herbal products for smoking:

  • online (webshop, app, chat, social media)
  • by telephone
  • by mail order
  • with an order form from a newspaper or magazine

Do you sell smoking products from the Netherlands?

If you sell to consumers in the Netherlands, you are not allowed to sell the following products remotely:

  • tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cut tobacco
  • related products, such as vapes (and parts thereof), refills (with and without nicotine), herbal products for smoking, and electronic heating devices

If you sell smoking products to consumers in the EEA, you cannot sell these smoking products remotely:

  • tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cut tobacco
  • e-cigarettes and refills (with and without nicotine)

Do you sell smoking products from abroad (either from within or from outside the EEA) to consumers in the Netherlands? You may not sell these smoking products remotely:

  • tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cut tobacco
  • e-cigarettes and refills (with and without nicotine)

The ban does not apply to sales to consumers outside the EEA.

You are still allowed to sell smoking accessories, such as pipes and lighters, at a distance.

Excise duty

In the Netherlands you need to pay excise duties (accijns) on tobacco products. Manufacturers, traders and importers have to pay excise duties to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst). The excise duties are incorporated in the price paid by the consumer. You can find the tariffs on the Dutch Customs’ website (in Dutch). You must file excise duty and consumer tax with the Tax and Customs Administration.

Inspection and fines

The NVWA performs inspections to check if you abide by the rules. They will do this for instance by having a young buyer visit your shop. If you fail to verify their age on making a sale, you will get a fine or a ban from selling tobacco products.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO