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Sweden Achieves the Lowest Smoking Rate in Europe and is on Track to Become Officially Smoke-Free - The EU Must Take Note

Swedish authorities officially confirmed that the current level of smoking in Sweden has fallen to 5,6%. This makes Swedes the only European nation close to reaching the smoke-free goal set by the EU 18 years ahead of the 2040 target.

In an event organised by the Oral Nicotine Commission in Stockholm, participants took stock of Sweden’s incredible achievements and leadership in the race to end smoking. It is about to become the first country in the world to be defined as “smoke free”, representing a share of less than 5% of the population smoking.

Sweden’s smoking rates have shot down since the 1980s from 35% down to below 6% - a feat that is yet to be replicated by any other nation in the world. The next lowest smoking rate in Europe is double that of Sweden’s, with the EU average sitting somewhere around 23%, four times higher than in Sweden. The result is the lowest tobacco mortality rate in Europe.

A group of leading public health professionals, consumer advocates and harm reduction experts that met to celebrate the achievement on 30 November 2022 in Stockholm have reaffirmed their call to policymakers around the world to ensure that less harmful alternatives to smoking are available to support smokers to quit.

Commenting at the event, Dr. Delon Human, President of Health Diplomats and organiser of the event in Stockholm said: “If all smokers in the world, some 1.1 billion people, would switch to one of less harmful alternative smoke-free, nicotine-based products, it could prevent disease and save millions of lives worldwide. Sweden has found the fire-escape for smokers. We need to work together to repeat the Swedish experience globally to save lives.”

This incredible success story gave attendees the chance to better understand Sweden’s recipe to success, key to which is its openness to less harmful alternatives to smoking. Snus has been at the forefront of the reduction measures, but in recent years, nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes have become another valuable tool for Swedish smokers aiming to quit.

The progressive, pro harm-reduction Swedish model is clearly distinct from the policies proposed by international organisations in favour of tobacco control. At an EU level, harm reduction advocates have fought hard to have harm reduction recognised in the European Beating Cancer Plan. The WHO still refuses to acknowledge its value, despite the fact that harm reduction is explicitly recognised in the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.

Commenting at the event, Professor Karl Fagerström said: “The upcoming Swedish EU presidency is a great opportunity to share their 5% success story to other EU countries. We hope that Sweden will be generous with sharing this know-how internationally.”

Speakers at the conference emphasised the need for sound evidence-based policy interventions in tobacco control. This translates to the broad adoption of tobacco harm reduction policies that support a journey to quitting smoking.

Ensuring that less harmful alternatives to smoking are affordable, accessible and affordable will be paramount to ensure that other countries can replicate Sweden’s success. This event is the start of much needed discussion of this topic.

The Oral Nicotine Commission is a global not-for-profit association that helps build the evidence base and raise awareness of Oral Nicotine among both governments, public health leaders and the public, thus countering negative, unfounded preconceptions and stereotypes. It addresses policy, science, consumer issues and relevant product innovations. Its views are independent of any brand or manufacturer and focuses on the individual and population health needs of adult smokers.

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