Sweden will soon be the first country to become smoke-free, which global health experts generally consider to be a smoking prevalence of 5% or less of the adult population. This makes Sweden the only European nation close to reaching the smoke-free goal set by the EU, 17 years ahead of the 2040 target. This can be attributed to Sweden's pragmatic, risk-based approach in the regulation of alternative nicotine products.
The best way to reduce the harm from smoking is to quit altogether. However, for smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit, switching to alternative nicotine products can be life-saving, as we have seen in the case of Sweden.
We believe that smokers should have access to viable alternative nicotine products with significantly lower negative health effects compared to cigarettes.
For years, we have advocated for scientific evidence to play a more significant role in the development of policies aimed at reducing smoking. The progressive approach of Sweden is distinct and enables us to call for the inclusion of empirical evidence in that debate as well.
The WHO has yet to take a similar approach, even though harm reduction is explicitly recognised in the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control. Ensuring that alternative nicotine products are acceptable, accessible, and affordable will be paramount to ensure that other countries can replicate Sweden’s success.
Health Diplomats is a global network of public health experts committed to developing and delivering solutions to global health-related problems. We focus on advancing science and innovative ways to solve public health issues, improving access to affordable healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices, and empowering people in relation to HIV and the harmful use of alcohol, drugs, food, and beverages, and tobacco. For each area, we collaborate with internationally recognised, independent academics and practitioners in over 35 countries.