Sweden about to become the first smoke-free country in Europe

Publish: 9:19 PM, March 28, 2023 | Update: 9:19 PM, March 28, 2023

Staff Correspondent : Sweden is set to become the first smoke free nation in Europe. According to the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), a country is considered “smoke-free” if the total number of adult smokers is less than 5% of the population. Sweden will achieve this target in 2023, 17 years before the target set by European Union for its members. In the last 15 years number of smokers in Sweden came down from 15% to 5.6%. A recently published study on Sweden’s smokefree journey have shown that the Swedish Government’s initiative of lowering the tax rate for Harm Reduction products such as Snus, Vapes, E-Cigarettes, HTPs, etc. played a significant

The study was authored by Karl Fagerstrom, recipient of the ‘WHO Medal’ in 1999 for his contribution in tobacco control, Dr Delon Human, former advisor to the UN Secretary-General and 3 Director Generals of WHO, and Anders Milton, former president of the World Medical Association and Chairman of The Snus Commission in Sweden.

In the study titled ‘The Swedish Experience: A Roadmap to Smoke-free Society’, presented on 14 March in a seminar, the writers noted that if other EU countries followed the strategies of Sweden then it could save 3.5 million lives in Europe alone. One of the key strategies that Sweden focused on was the use of harm reduction tools. The government of Sweden believes these products are less harmful and helps people to transition from cigarettes therefore taxes for such tools are 8 to 36% of the excise applicable on traditional cigarettes. 

The Finance Minister of Sweden Mikael Damberg stated that tobacco and nicotine taxes are structured so that “products are generally taxed on the basis of risk,” thus “products that are judged to be more harmful to health have a higher risk.” This strategy helped lower the price of vapes, snus, HTPs, etc. and made them more accessible by adult consumers who wanted to quit smoking.

The Swedish model combines recommendations in the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, which includes reducing the supply and demand of tobacco, banning smoking in certain places. But it also adds another important element, which is accepting smoke-free products as less harmful alternatives.

“There are no risk-free products, but e-cigarettes, for example, are 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes. It is far better for a smoker to switch from regular cigarettes to e-cigarettes or nicotine pouches than to continue smoking,” said the authors.