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    Belgians, even smokers, in favour of plain packaging

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    A clear majority of Belgians – 61% of those polled – would be in favour of a legally-applied plain packaging of cigarettes, according to a poll carried out for the Anti-Cancer Foundation. In that total is included around half of all smokers. The study, carried out by polling organisation GfK in March, found that 22% of Belgians still smoke, with 17% doing so on a daily basis. The majority are in the 40-54 age group, where the percentage goes up to 30%.

    The highest number of smokers is in Wallonia and Brussels, at 26%, while in Flanders only an average of 19% of people smoke. Men continue to smoke more than women – 23% to 21%, although more men than women have also given up.

    When it comes to tobacco advertising, 69% are against any for of advertising at the point of sale, with 61% in favour of plain packaging – where brand signatures such as the famous red triangle of Marlboro are replaced by brand-neutral packages. However studies carried out in countries like Australia where such measures have been imposed demonstrate little or no difference to smokers, a hard core of whom continue to smoke regardless.

    Federal health minister Maggie De Block aims to introduce a law on plain packaging by next year, while the number of people who smoke daily comes down to 17% this year – a figure the poll appears to support. The government has until this weekend, the start of the parliamentary recess, to push through a bill on plain packaging, Suzanne Gabriëls, tobacco expert at the Foundation said.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times