Sweden Close to Smoke-Free Status

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Sweden has almost reached smoke-free status, which is considered 5 percent of the population or less smoking, reports AP. In 2019, 6.4 percent of Swedes over the age of 15 were daily smokers. Last year, 5.6 percent of the population were smokers, according to the Public Health Agency of Sweden.

“We were early in restricting smoking in public spaces, first in school playgrounds and after school centers and later in restaurants, outdoor cafes and public places such as bus stations,” said Ulrika Arehed, secretary-general of the Swedish Cancer Society. “In parallel, taxes on cigarettes and strict restrictions on the marketing of these products have played an important role.

Members of European Parliament expressed concern with the European Union approach toward smoking cessation, noting a need for an approach following that of Sweden. Charlie Weimers and Johan Nissinen called for a more open approach toward harm reduction in the EU at a press conference in Brussels that was hosted by the World Vapers’ Alliance.

“The Swedish case presents the third and final determining pillar in the pro-harm reduction argument,” said Michael Landl, director of the World Vapers’ Alliance. “The science, the experience of the consumers and now the Swedish example are proof that harm reduction works in achieving a smoke-free society. Now we have an undeniable case that the EU-wide regulation must be risk-based and evidence-supported.”

“Policy should be evidence-based,” said Weimers. “WHO [World Health Organization] will soon classify Sweden as Europe’s first smoke-free country because of harm reduction policies and widespread use of snus. Sweden has a wide range of harm reduction products: We have snus, nicotine pouches, vaping, etc. People are given a choice!”

Nissinen said, “It is clear that smoking kills, and we need to do everything we can to prevent those unnecessary deaths. Sweden is the best example of how this is achievable, namely with a pragmatic harm reduction approach. It is the only country in the EU where snus is legal and popular, with 18 percent of the population using it. Consuming snus instead of cigarettes saved many Swedish lives. It is time that the EU Commission expects this reality and starts acting accordingly.”

“Snus has been used since the 1800s, so we have more than 200 years of a case study that proved that tobacco harm reduction works. Snus is a great way to continue consuming nicotine without harmful chemicals you take from the traditional combustible cigarettes,” said Carissa During, the director of the Considerate Pouchers. “Many countries in Europe are trying to overregulate or ban alternative nicotine products. Policymakers believe that banning something will make them disappear. We know that it is not true.”

The WHO, however, attributes Sweden’s declining smoking rate to tobacco control measures, including information campaigns, advertising bans and “cessation support” for those wishing to quit. The agency stated that Sweden’s tobacco use is at more than 20 percent when including snus and similar products.

“Switching from one harmful product to another is not a solution,” the WHO said in an email, referring to snus. “Promoting a so-called ‘harm reduction approach’ to smoking is another way the tobacco industry is trying to mislead people about the inherently dangerous nature of these products.”

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