04 October 2023, by Emily Proctor
In the decade since the Netherlands started the StopTober campaign, aimed at encouraging people to give up smoking, more than 600.000 people have successfully given up smoking cigarettes for good. Around a quarter of Dutch adults were smokers 10 years ago, while just 17 percent are smokers today. However, the Dutch government still hopes to reduce that number further to ease pressure on the Dutch healthcare system.
600.000 people in the Netherlands quit smoking thanks to StopTober
The annual StopTober campaign, which encourages people to quit smoking for the month of October, has helped more than half a million smokers in the Netherlands quit, according to an analysis by the AD. The newspaper looked at figures from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the GGD and the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), finding that more than 600.000 smokers had given up cigarettes thanks to the campaign.
70 percent of people taking part in StopTober manage to make it through the entire month without smoking a cigarette, with half of participants quitting entirely for three months after October. Esther Croes, researcher at the National Tobacco Control Expertise Center, says that having a dedicated month to encourage people to quit smoking helps because people quit together. “You really stop together. For example, if your partner stops smoking, it will be easier to quit yourself. People pull each other through and that works,” Croes told the newspaper.
Deciding to identify yourself as a non-smoker helps, say experts
Croes also told the newspaper that one of the most powerful changes that helps people maintain the willpower to quit is by self-identifying as a “non-smoker”, rather than a smoker. “Research shows that the strongest motivation is when smokers already identify as non-smokers,” says Croes. “When people say: ‘My identity leans more towards that of a non-smoker and that suits me.’ Then it will be easier to continue quitting smoking.”
Despite the falling number of smokers, there are still many areas in the Netherlands where more than one in five adults smoke. These areas are spread across the country, but the highest proportion of smokers can be found in Amsterdam, several municipalities north of Groningen, and in the province of Brabant.