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Government information for entrepreneurs

Sales of tobacco

This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO | Statistics Netherlands, CBS

The Dutch government discourages smoking. Therefore the Dutch Tobacco Act (Tabakswet) contains rules designed to reduce the sale of tobacco products and electronic cigarettesExternal link.

The Dutch Tobacco Act applies to:

  • tobacco (such as cigarettes, cut tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, water pipe tobacco)
  • electronic cigarettes containing nicotine
  • electronic cigarettes without nicotine (shisha pens)
  • refill containers for electronic cigarettes
  • components of electronic cigarettes

Age limit for tobacco products

  • You may only sell tobacco products and electronic cigarettesExternal link 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 non-nicotine-containing refill fluids and herbal mixes without nicotine for the waterpipe to under-18 year olds is prohibited.
  • You may not 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, menthol cigarettes prohibited

The sale of flavoured cigarettes, cut tobacco and click dual flavoured cigarettes is prohibited. As of 20 May 2020, the sale and production of menthol cigarettes is prohibited as well. No menthol cigarettes can be produced or sold by anyone from 20 May onwards.

Displaying of packaging

If you display tobacco products, for instance in a display, showcase or on the counter, you must make sure the health warnings are clearly visible and readable. You may not sell tobacco products with misleading claims on the packaging such as ‘light’ or ‘organic’.

No displaying in supermarkets

As of 1 July 2020, supermarkets are no longer allowed to display tobacco or smoking products. The colours or outlines of the packets should not be visible either: the products should be kept, for example, in a cupboard or drawer, so that they are not visible at all. 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. This includes electronic cigarettes and herbs intended for smoking. Smoking accessories, such as ashtrays and lighters can be displayed.

Other outlets, including bars, petrol stations and webshops, will be prohibited from displaying tobacco products from 1 January 2021.

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).

1 October 2020: Plain packaging

It is expected that from 1 October 2020 cigarettes may only be sold in plain pakaging. Besides the mandatory health warnings, only the brand name, brand variety, manufacturer's details and barcode may be printed on the packet. This information must meet set standards on colouring, typeface and fontsize. For other tobacco products plain packaging will be required from 1 January 2022. Please note: this plain packaging obligation is subject to its acceptance by the upper and lower houses of parliament.

Advertising for tobacco products

Any form of advertising for tobacco products, electronic cigarettes or any smoking implements, whether or not they contain tobacco, is prohibited. Tobacco advertising is only permitted subject to certain terms and conditions, for example, in tobacconists or tobacco points of sale. You may not give away tobacco products or electronic cigarettes free of charge.

Vending machines

You may only sell tobacco products via a tobacco vending machine, 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

Online tobacco sales

The online sale of tobacco and electronic cigarettes is permitted. You can publish an overview of tobacco products (with or without logos) and a price list on your website, but the information must be neutral. From 1 January 2021, you may not publish any visual depiction of the tobacco products you sell. When delivering tobacco products you are obliged to verify the recipient's age.

You have to be registered as a retailerExternal link with the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) in order to be allowed to sell these products cross-border within the European Economic Area (EEAExternal link). Registration is also necessary in the country where you sell your products. However, several countries do not allow cross-border salesExternal link (in Dutch, listed under the subhead ‘Verbod op grensoverschrijdende verkoop'). You are obliged to verify the buyer's age even when cross-border sales are made.

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 Tax and Customs Administration’s websiteExternal link (in Dutch). You must file excise duty and consumer taxExternal link with the Tax and Customs Administration.

Please note: from 1 April 2020, there has been an extra raise in excise duties on tobacco products. For a packet of cigarettes for instance, this raise amounts to 1 euro per packet.

Inspection and fines

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (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.

Statistics: consumer price index

Consumer price index of tobacco

This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Statistics Netherlands, CBS