Is Sweden the answer to a smoke-free future?

It seems Sweden is the guiding light needed for a cigarette-free world. Swedish men appear to be the first population to reach a record low of daily smokers, with only 5 per cent of men aged between 30-44 smoking cigarettes daily, as of 2016. This number is very low in comparison to the 25 per cent of European Union males who smoke on a daily basis.

It may seem curious that only a demographic of 30-44 year old males were mentioned in the data released by the Swedish government, however, faith is restored as a total of just 8 per cent of total swedish males smoke cigarettes daily. The proportion of women smoking in Sweden is constantly falling too, and is now at just 10%.

Image: Pixabay

In Sweden, people use a substance called Snus, to stop smoking. Snus is a moist powder tobacco product that is placed under the upper lip for extended periods. The sale of Snus has been banned within the EU since 1992 following attempts by a US firm to introduce chewable tobacco known as Skoal Bandits to the UK. However, Snus has saved the lives of many. The latest WHO (World Health Organization) report states “the tobacco industry and the deadly impact of its products cost the world’s economies more than US$ 1 trillion annually in healthcare expenditures and lost productivity, according to findings published in The economics of tobacco and tobacco control. Currently, around 6 million people die annually as a result of tobacco use, with most living in developing countries”.

Sweden has also implemented other new ways to prevent smoking. A billboard in Stockholm’s Odenplan Square has been turning heads, and it’s not because of a provocative photo or a bold slogan. What makes this billboard so unique is that it coughs — and it does so every time a smoker passes by. If somebody walks past whilst smoking, the still image of a black and white photo of a man begins to move- he starts to cough and demonstrates an unpleasant expression on his face. The reactions of passers-by have been recorded; they vary from amusement to annoyance to surprise. The ad, for the pharmacy chain, Apotek Hjärtat, is attempting to encourage people to quit smoking.

Information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveals that the lung cancer death rate in Sweden is less than half the EU average. It also has the lowest rates of oral and pancreatic cancers in Europe, diminishing fears that Snus use might boost the risk of other cancers.

However, a record low of adult smokers has been reached within the UK too, with 19.1 per cent of adult males smoking daily in 2015 in comparison to just over 50 per cent in 1974. Just 16.9 per cent of total adults in England were smokers in 2016. Health experts also revealed that widespread use of e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and gum helped 500,000 smokers kick the habit in 2015– the highest number on record.

Perhaps price increases, plain or alarming packaging, and campaigns to promote quitting have contributed to declines in the number of smokers within the UK. The NHS offer support, advice and treatments to both encourage and help those wanting to quit the habit.

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