Features like a sleek design, technical add-ons such as Bluetooth, and ease of concealment are examples that make e-cigarettes attractive to young people, according to research by RIVM. That is why RIVM recommends policymakers to consider implementing a standardised design for e-cigarettes. This measure is expected to diminish their appeal and subsequently decrease their usage.

The e-cigarette market is continually adapting to trends and innovations to enhance its appeal. In recent years, there has been a global increase in e-cigarette use among young people. In 2023, 22% of young people in the Netherlands aged between 12 and 25 had tried e-cigarettes, despite e-cigarettes often containing nicotine (an addictive substance) and having detrimental effects on health. Moreover, e-cigarettes can potentially serve as a gateway to tobacco smoking for young users.

More research into standardised design characteristics

Currently, there are many types of e-cigarettes on the market. They can differ in shape, size and functionality features, making them appealing to different target groups. A standardised design would make e-cigarettes less appealing. However, the specifics of this standardised design require further research to determine the combination of characteristics that would be least enticing to young people. Additionally, alongside implementing a standardised design, RIVM advises considering a minimum price, as the affordability of certain types of e-cigarettes also contributes to their appeal.

Enhancing efforts to reduce appeal

The government's National Prevention Agreement aims to achieve a smoke-free generation by 2040. Following increased e-cigarette use among young people, the government has implemented measures to curb their appeal. These included a flavour ban with the exception of tobacco flavour and the introduction of plain packaging. Adopting a standardised design would represent another step towards reducing appeal, aligning with recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Measures in other countries

Several countries have already implemented further measures to reduce the appeal of e-cigarettes. Belgium, for example, prohibits the marketing of e-cigarettes with appealing features, such as LEDs, which do not contribute to the functioning of the device. Meanwhile, Canada has banned external or sensory features that could be appealing to young people. France and the United Kingdom are moving to ban disposable e-cigarettes, which are particularly popular among youth due to their small, colourful designs.

E-cigarettes are sometimes used by smokers who struggle to quit, even with proven cessation aids. It is not expected that making them less appealing to young people will get in the way of this goal.