Back in 2014, the E.U. implemented a new regulation called Tobacco Products Directive and it would become effective on May 20th, 2016. And the TPD-II, as it’s called for short, places limits on the sale and merchandising of tobacco and tobacco-related products in the EU.
In the TPD-II, cigars below three grams in weight are differentiated from cigars above three grams in weight. Each member state, even though it is EU regulation, was allowed to exempt certain products and most states decided to exempt the above three grams category. The Netherlands however, decided to only exempt cigars above three grams registered before May 20th, 2016. All premium cigars above three grams, introduced after May 20th, 2016 would be regulated the same as cigars below three grams. That meant huge warning stickers on the outside of the box, full color with pictures. Not only on the top, but also on the back and sides plus on the inside of the lid.
More packaging regulations
And now the Dutch government is taking it a step further. From July 1st, 2019, the regulation on packaging will be even stricter. The packaging isn’t allowed to be embossed anymore, gold or any other shiny colors are no longer allowed to be used on new introductions on the Dutch market, backdated till 20 May 2016. That would mean that the highly collectible Habanos jars would not be allowed anymore, Cuban limited editions with the golden secondary rings would not be allowed, the Cuban (Gran) Reserva in the shiny black lacquered boxes would not be allowed anymore.
Cubacigar Benelux, the distributor of Cuban cigars in The Netherlands, has decided that enough is enough. They are suing the Dutch government, as their lawyer Kenneth Defares confirmed. Cubacigar Managing Director Tony Hoevenaars explained why, in an interview with De Telegraaf, why the company decided to go to court. The limited editions, whether it’s the yearly limited edition releases or the rare releases like jars, are highly collectible and will lose all their collectible value if they have to be repacked with the original, and often very beautiful, packaging to be destroyed. It would diminish the value of the limited editions while adding cost price due to new packaging and extra staff to repack the cigars. Considering that the surrounding, and fellow EU, countries have exempted premium cigars from this regulation, it is clear that cigar aficionados would buy those products elsewhere, leaving the product to be unsold. That would create incredible problems for both Cubacigar as for the four La Casa del Habano shops in The Netherlands, who, according to Hoevenaars, get 40 percent of their turnover from the limited releases.
La Casa del Habano shops
Yuri Dijkstra, who owns the beautiful La Casa del Habano Almere with his business partner Olav Meijer, commented that he understands that the government is trying to prevent youngsters from smoking. But he also says that he never sees youngsters in his shop, since they don’t have any interest in premium longfillers cigars. He urges politicians and anti-tobacco lobbyists to learn to understand the difference between tobacco products, and not treat cigars the same way as cigarettes.
Raymon Van Horssen, from La Casa del Habano The Hague, confirmed that in the first La Casa of The Netherlands the clientele are all adults, with the majority between 26 and 55. Van Horssen also claims that the price of the premium longfillers is something that is targeting the more mature smoker with expendable income, not the young kids that the government tries to protect with these measures, and points to the latest FDA study results, where it was proven that smoking cigars moderately does not have a negative impact on the health.
The court date is set for the end of May. We reached out to Tony Hoevenaars for additional information, but right now he’s at the Habanos Festival in Cuba with limited access to a network and a packed schedule. We hope to be able to get answers to our questions next week.