Sweden’s Stunning Smoke Free Success Provides a Road Map That Could Save Lives of Millions – Major New Report
STOCKHOLM– 14 March 2023 (BUSINESS WIRE)–PUBLIC health experts launched a major new report to mark Sweden approaching the historic milestone of becoming Europe’s first ‘Smoke Free’ country.
Sweden is on course to drop below a 5% tobacco smoking prevalence rate in the coming months. This is the level below which the country will be considered officially ‘Smoke Free’.
No other country in the European Union is even close to replicating this achievement and none are currently on track to even achieve it by the EU’s target of 2040, in 17 years time.
The country’s groundbreaking strategy to minimize the harmful effects of tobacco smoking and save lives is detailed in a new report entitled “The Swedish Experience: A roadmap for a smoke-free society,” presented today at an international research seminar in Stockholm.
According to the report’s authors, Sweden’s approach, which combines tobacco control methods with harm minimisation strategies, could save 3.5 million lives in the next decade if other EU countries adopt similar measures.
“Quitting smoking like Sweden saves lives,” says Dr. Anders Milton, one of the report’s authors. “It has annually saved more than 3,400 lives in Sweden. If all other EU countries did as Sweden did, 3.5 million lives could be saved in the coming decade, in the EU alone.”
Combination of tobacco control with harm minimization
The Swedish model combines recommendations in the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), including reducing the supply and demand of tobacco, banning smoking in certain places, but it adds an important element: accepting smoke-free products as less harmful alternatives.
“It’s about combining tobacco control with harm minimisation”
“It’s about combining tobacco control with harm minimisation”, explains Dr. Delon Human, another of the report’s authors. “There are no risk-free tobacco products, but e-cigarettes, for example, are 95% 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.”
Public health benefits for individual and society
The benefits of Sweden’s strategy are enormous, with the country having the lowest percentage of tobacco-related diseases in the EU and a 41% lower incidence of cancer than other European countries. The report also describes how the percentage of smokers in Sweden has dropped from 15 percent to 5.6 percent of the population in 15 years, putting it on track to achieve smoke free status 17 years ahead of the EU’s 2040 target.
“Sweden has a very successful tobacco strategy that should be exported,” says Professor Karl Fagerström, who also authored the report.
“It would be of enormous benefit to the world if more countries did as Sweden did with measures that reduce supply and demand while having differentiated tax rates that give smokers financial incentives to switch from cigarettes to less harmful alternatives,” Dr. Fagerström added.
About the report
The report was commissioned by Health Diplomats, an international organization working to improve access to healthcare, encourage innovation and the use of harm reduction to minimize the negative impact of alcohol, food, nicotine and drugs.
The full report is available here: smokefreesweden.com/report_en
Some of the report’s conclusions and suggestions for implementation in other countries.
1. Recognize smoke-free products as less harmful and that they pose significantly less risk than smoking. Encourage smokers to switch from cigarettes to less harmful alternatives.
2: Provide fact-based information. It is clear that there are no risk-free tobacco products. But, for example, e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than cigarettes. Of course, it is better for a smoker to switch from regular cigarettes to e-cigarettes, although it is not without risk.
3: Policy decisions that make smoke-free alternatives more accessible than cigarettes. For example, differentiated taxes that give smokers financial incentives to switch from cigarettes to less harmful alternatives.
About the report’s authors:
Dr. Anders Milton, formerly chairman of the Swedish Medical Association, the Swedish Red Cross and the World Medical Association.
Prof. Karl Fagerström, docent and internationally recognized expert in addiction research and smoking cessation.
Dr. Delon Human, physician specializing in global public health issues. Former advisor on public health issues to, among others, three WHO directors-general and the UN secretary-general.