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VVD member Han ten Broeke (BOVAG) advocate of e-cigarettes

In the radio program Spraakmakers, former VVD member of parliament Han ten Broeke, now BOVAG chairman, showed himself to be an accomplished nicotine lobbyist. According to him, e-cigarettes are a less harmful alternative to cigarettes and the discussion about this is ‘going a bit too far’.


“It is very easy to say we are doing it wrong. So ban everything. Yeah come on guys. That is difficult to live together, one’s own responsibility…” Said ex-VVD MP Han ten Broeke last Wednesday in the NPO1 radio program Spraakmakers. The reason for the discussion (from minute 37:20) in the media forum of which Ten Broeke was a part was an article in AD about young influencers on TikTok and Instagram who are approached by manufacturers or sellers of e-cigarettes to advertise their vapes. Ten Broeke, currently director of Political Affairs at the enter for Strategic Studies in The Hague and also general chairman of BOVAG, championed the e-cigarette as a ‘less harmful’ alternative to the cigarette in the discussion. BOVAG, the sector organization for 8,000 entrepreneurs in the mobility sector, has made itself known as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry in the past.


Social media cannot be controlled

In the media forum, together with Ingrid Spijkers, editor-in-chief of Omrop Fryslân and Hansje van de Beek, program maker of Human, the latter discussed the AD article, which is based on research by the Trimbos Institute.what are e liquids good for? The discussion quickly expanded to include surreptitious advertising by influencers for alcohol. Ten Broeke responded with a familiar VVD sound. “Social media is almost impossible to control, so you have to compare it with public space, where children are sometimes confronted with expressions that…, yes, you cannot always put a police officer or a supervisor in between.”

Ten Broeke prefers to see the companies that pay the influencers held accountable for their behaviour. “But then you also have to be honest, then you also have to allow them for vaping, which is an alternative to cigarettes and which may also be less harmful, to provide space for that.”

Not healthy, but own responsibility

To the objection that the question is whether vapes are less harmful (more and more studies now indicate that they are not and the WHO warns about the harmfulness of the e-cigarette) Ten Broeke says: “Yes, well, that is another discussion. But I’ve also heard that we’re going a bit too far in that. If you can move people away from smoking to a less harmful alternative…”


“Yes, but if you help them from the vape to the cigarette, then we are doing it all wrong”, Van de Beek retorts.

To which Ten Broeke says: “It is very easy to say that we are doing it wrong. So ban everything. Yeah come on guys. That is difficult to live together, personal responsibility…” To then agree that vapes are “not a healthy alternative”. So he argues that advertising on TikTok, for example, should be “not aimed at young people anyway”. But because social media is difficult to control, you have to “talk directly to companies that they can’t do that.”


Ten Broeke found tobacco lobbyists ‘professional’

It should come as no surprise that Ten Broeke mimics the nicotine industry. In 2007, when he had been a Member of Parliament for just one year, he once spoke out against the professional manner in which tobacco lobbyists approached him during a meeting in Nieuwspoort. At least that is what the former tobacco lobbyist in the employ of Philip Morris wrote Michiel Krijvenaar on his website. The meeting was organized around the presentation of a study of the lobbying in parliament, which showed that the tobacco lobby was at the bottom of the pecking order of lobbyists. Krijvenaar did not notice this at the time, MPs listened to him nicely. As a former employee of Member of Parliament Broos van Erp (VVD), Krijvenaar naturally knew exactly how to approach MPs. The same Krijvenaar later specialized in health law and is currently acting public affairs adviser to the Dutch mental health care organisation, an organization where smoking is above average and smoke-free care poses a major challenge. In 2018, he informed TabakNee that he had not advised any tobacco company since 2011.


BOVAG is a tobacco lover

Ten Broeke had to give up his parliamentary seat in 2018 after an affair with a much younger party employee from years earlier came to light. In 2019 he became Director of Political Affairs at the Hague Center for Strategic Studies and a year later also General Chairman of BOVAG. So they have a good one in Han ten Broeke. As an interest group of, among others, garage companies that operate a gas station, BOVAG has often made itself known as an indirect advocate of the interests of the tobacco industry. In the discusssie about the raising of the age limit for the purchase of tobacco in 2013, then director Koos Burgman said reassuringly at a meeting with members of parliament: “Tobacco sales are in good hands at gas stations.” With a 40 percent compliance rate in 2020, not much of that has been shown (and it wasn’t much better in 2021).


A year later, Burgman was concerned about the border effects of an excise duty increase for tobacco: “The only sensible decision that The Hague can take now is to reverse the excise duty increases, sooner rather than later. If only to secure the revenue for the treasury and not let it flow to our neighboring countries,” he told TankPro e cigarettes online for better quality. Warnings about border effects and smuggling are a standard policy of the tobacco industry, based on faulty reports from KPMG, to prevent excise tax hikes.


So it’s no wonder that TV journalist Rick Nieman called BOVAG a ‘friend’ of the tobacco industry in October 2017 in the Hague Lobby program. With another tobacco friend at the head.