Bloomberg highlights Sweden’s low smoking rates
19th Jan 2024
On friday morning, the news agency Bloomberg drew attention to Sweden’s low smoking rates and delved into the underlying reasons for this trend. He is Pouch Patrol’s comments on the article.
Sweden have 135 smoking-related deaths per 100,000 men, compared to the EU’s 296 smoking-related deaths per 100,000 men. If Swedish tobacco and nicotine legislation were applied across the EU, this difference would likely be eradicated. Both we and Cancerfonden’s Secretary-General, Ulrika Årehed Kågström, can likely agree on this point. The assessment of the positive effects of snus on public health is, at best, a reasonable initial estimation. However, the impacts, solely on the current male smoking population, are significant. Consequently, these results should serve as an indicator of the potential effect of new nicotine products in mitigating the negative health effects of smoking.
Alternative Nicotine Products
Snus is a niche nicotine product. The new nicotine products differ in many ways and may attract smokers from more demographic groups. A broader range of products, beyond snus, could over time result in a higher percentage of people quitting smoking altogether, especially among women. Transferring the effects of snus on public health to the new nicotine products might, therefore, be an underestimation.
The ban on snus sales within the EU and the historically more relaxed use of tobacco taxes for cigarettes by the EU have likely contributed to higher smoking rates within the EU compared to Sweden. Estimating the effect of Sweden’s higher cigarette prices on consumption and usage is possible. Consequently, it is also feasible to separate the effects of higher prices on Swedish public health measures such as smoking-related mortality and cancer incidence.
Other Tobacco Control Measures
Consulting the “Tobacco Control Policy Index,” there is limited evidence that Sweden has been an early adopter and stricter user of both administrative and information-based tobacco control measures, aside from allowing snus sales. However, the effectiveness of such measures in reducing smoking is low. Despite some significant policy differences, it is challenging to isolate individual effects of various instruments on smoking behavior.
Possible effects due to differences in the implementation of laws and regulations between Sweden and the EU, such as Sweden’s early adoption of health warnings, are therefore mixed with the possibility of snus sales in Sweden. The declines in the number of deaths and new cancer cases are thus an effect of Sweden’s overall tobacco policy, except for pricing measures. The figures may, to some extent, overstate snus’s role as a political tool for reducing smoking. However, as Cancerfonden’s Secretary-General Ulrika Årehed Kågström states to the international news agency Bloomberg, “it’s a lie that it’s because of snus.”
We must be honest, even if we happen to be the Secretary-General of Cancerfonden and, in some way, are paid by Bloomberg to say what we say.