How Sweden Are On Course To Be The First Smoke Free Country

smoke free sweden banner

Every country within the European Union has a goal to become a “Smoke Free” country by the year 2040, as well as England wanting to make it a decade sooner, with the Smoke Free 2030 campaign being launched in 2019 by the Government here in England. This means that the total number of adult smokers within the country would be 5% or less. But there’s one country that stands out above the crowd, by being on course of reaching Smoke Free status 17 years earlier than the end goal that was forecasted. And the country in question? Sweden.

Smoking prevalence in Sweden is currently at 5.6% and they are on course to hit 5% or less goal by the end of 2023. This is an amazing achievement and something which can not be looked over nor down upon. In this article, I’m going to take a deep dive in to how Sweden achieved this amazing feat, and what other countries could take from it to help them along with their pledge, especially England who are currently set to miss their 2030 target unless something is done. Let’s get in to it!

The World Vapers Alliance Fact Sheet

For reference to write this article, I will be using the very detailed fact sheet written by the team at the World Vapers Alliance, to which I thank them for their hard work for producing not only this amazing piece of literature, but for all their continued hard work they do for the Vaping Industry. Be sure to check them out!

The Decline in Smoking Prevalence in Sweden

Starting off by looking at the figures surrounding smoking prevalence in Sweden, and this is where it’s interesting from the very start. Smoking prevalence in Sweden has seen a steady, near borderline rapid, decline in the last 10 years.

wva sweden smoking rates

As you can see in the table above, in the last decade alone, smoking rates have gone down by almost 55%! This is the largest rate of decline in any country around the world so it’s not something to be scoffed at, a serious achievement for Sweden! And stemming back further to the mid 1980’s, and smoking rates were around 36% so it’s dropped by 30% and Swedish officials say it’s started seeing a rapid decline in the last two decades most notably.

And to give a bit of hindsight to compare to this, the average smoking rate in any other country in the EU (and England) is more than 3.5 times higher. Crazy!

Nicotine Consumption Is Similar But Not From Smoking

The fact sheet also highlights the above fact, that whilst smoking prevalence may be considerably lower than any other EU countries, the consumption of Nicotine is very comparative to other countries in Europe. This is largely down to the fact they are advocates for alternate Nicotine products such as Snus, Nicotine Pouches and E-Cigarettes. I’m going to talk about this in detail further on in this article.

And with the lack of smoking happening in the country, this means also that the Cancer rates are considerably lower than those countries where Smoking cigarettes remains so high. Cancer incidence in Sweden is 41% lower than the rest of Europe, with total Cancer related deaths being 38% lower also.

On top of this, smoking related deaths in Sweden are 22% lower than the EU average death rate as well. Ticking all of those boxes are Sweden!

How Are Sweden Hitting The Numbers?

This is probably a question you’re asking yourself when reading this, and it’s certainly something I was asking myself when I heard the news, but I have somewhat of an upper edge due to previous research and knowledge for articles I’ve written in the past. Just how have Sweden hit these numbers so fast, and how do they compare to other countries? Well, this graph shows everything you need to know, check it out below;

smoking rates globally

Credit goes to Dr Colin Mendelsohn for the graph above. Be sure to check out his website if you haven’t already!

As you can see, Sweden rules the roost with the decline figures, closely followed by Japan, then New Zealand and the USA and UK closely following. But what we are going to focus on here is the second half of that table, or the yellow bars to be specific.

Sweden’s decline in smoking went down almost SIX times faster than what it did in Australia and Germany. If you didn’t already know, Australia have VERY strict and stringent restrictions and rules on Nicotine alternatives, most notably E-Cigarettes and E-Liquid, making the use of tobacco harm reduction products near impossible unless hoops are jumped through, and even then there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to get exactly what you want or need. And there lies the secret to Sweden’s success in my opinion…they heavily back Tobacco Harm Reduction in their country.

Promotion of Tobacco Harm Reduction is The Key to Success

Tobacco Harm Reduction is exactly what it says on the tin, it’s something that will give a like effect but in the way where any harm that could be caused is reduced. For example, using an E-Cigarette will replicate the effect of smoking tobacco, but without the risk of being harmed by the toxic chemicals that are found in cigarette smoke and burning tobacco leaf.

On the subject of tobacco, there is a form of Oral Tobacco product that has originates from Sweden and is still heavily used by patrons to this day and is arguably the biggest thing that has led to such a small amount of the countries residents being smokers, and that is Snus.

Snus is a small, normally white, pouch that contains flavourings and tobacco leaf and is put in between the upper gum and lip, and rests there slowly releasing the nicotine from the tobacco through the gum. It’s been around since the late 1800s and is still heavily used and promoted in Sweden today. It’s actually banned from sale within the European Union as well as the UK which is why you may have not heard of it, and definitely wouldn’t have seen it on the shelves in shops here in England.

But Snus isn’t the only thing that Sweden promotes. It has a very open and free regulatory process on E-Cigarettes as well as E-Liquid. No restrictions are imposed on buying E-Cigarettes and E-Liquid like in other countries, such as needing a valid prescription to purchase, or only being able to obtain tobacco or mint flavour vape juice. The chart below shows the stats to do with Tobacco Harm Reduction options and how it’s helped.

smoking vs THR in Sweden

As you can see, daily smokers goes down, and daily users of Snus and E-Cigs goes up, which comes as no surprise really and the two go hand in hand really. And due to their free and open regulations on E-Cigarettes, the number of smokers making the transition to vaping has increased quite reasonably and is forecasted to continue to grow as the time passes like it has been.

And on top of this, Snus, E-Cigarettes and Nicotine Pouches all have considerably lower taxation put on them than traditional cigarettes do, which is a pretty handsome incentive to encourage people to make the switch, clever stuff from the Swedish Government if I say so myself!


And there we have it folks, the break down and analysis of just how Sweden have become the first country to be on course to reach Smoke Free status, and by quite some margin before the deadline as well.

They’ve really nailed it with what they’re doing in their country in my opinion, and this should be replicated by other countries also if they want the same success. England have started taking positive steps forward to reaching their goal of Smoke Free by 2030, but there’s still more than can be done, especially when looking at what Sweden is doing/has done.

Tobacco Harm Reduction advocacy, lower tax rates on the products, and promotion of alternatives to smoking seem to be the key to success!

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