COP10: a fresh opportunity to learn from Smoke Free Sweden
This week, COP10 should have taken place in Panama. While the conference has been postponed, the Smoke Free Sweden movement is calling on policymakers to take heed of the Swedish tobacco harm reduction story. Sweden is on the cusp of becoming Europe’s first ‘smoke-free’ country, with smoking levels soon set to dip below 5%. This milestone is set to be achieved a staggering 17 years ahead of the EU’s 2040 target. Sweden’s remarkable success is largely due to its harm reduction strategies, which allow adult smokers access to affordable reduced-harm products, such as e-cigarettes and oral nicotine pouches.
Throughout 2023, public health experts and advocates gathered in cities around the world to discuss how other countries can use the Swedish approach to minimise tobacco-related disease and death. These discussions have been summarised in a brand new policy paper, entitled ‘Learnings from Smoke-Free Sweden: A Global Consultation’. Through our ongoing research and discussions, the Smoke Free Sweden movement has developed a series of recommendations for policymakers, in order to make the Swedish success story a reality for all countries:
Harm reduction: Develop and embrace harm reduction strategies.
Implement risk-appropriate nicotine regulation: The Swedish model has proven to be a highly effective approach to tobacco control.
Understand the life-saving benefits of the Smoke-Free Sweden model: Our research has found that if every EU country followed Sweden’s approach and made safer alternatives affordable, acceptable and accessible to smokers, just under 3 million European lives could have been saved between 2000 and 2019.
Promote the Swedish experience globally: Encourage the widespread adoption of the Swedish model in other regions, highlighting its success in reducing smoking prevalence and the associated health risks, and promote the Swedish Experience at global fora such as the FCTC COP. This will contribute to the global efforts to reduce the harm caused by tobacco use.
Focus on quitting or switching to smoke-free alternatives underpinned by clear information on relative risks: The WHO must take note, and commission official research into what has made Sweden smoke-free 17 years ahead of the EU target.
Implement accurate risk communication: Policymakers should ensure that regulations make distinct risk-based differentiations between combustible and non-combustible nicotine products, so they cannot be treated equally.
Accessibility, Affordability and Acceptability: Governments should pursue policies that would allow smoke-free products to become more accessible and acceptable to smokers, including the use of regulated flavours.
With these recommendations in mind, we are calling on the WHO and FCTC to consider Sweden’s smoke-free success story, when COP10 convenes in 2024. When it comes to reducing smoking levels and tobacco-related deaths, Sweden has found a fire escape. Now it is up to the WHO to consider this compelling evidence, and potentially save the lives of millions of smokers around the world.
Notes to editors:
The Tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was supposed to take place from 20 to 25 November 2023, in Panama City, Panama. It is currently postponed and no location or dates are known for the moment.
About Smoke Free Sweden
Smoke Free Sweden is a campaign which encourages other countries to follow the Swedish model when it comes to Tobacco Harm Reduction. Sweden is about to become the first ‘smoke-free’ European country in 2023, with a smoking rate of below 5 percent. This is a huge achievement, and will be 17 years ahead of the 2040 EU target. This can be attributed to Sweden’s open attitude towards alternative products.
For more information on Sweden’s successful approach to becoming a smoke-free nation, please visit www.smokefreesweden.org.