Smoking prevalence in Nordic countries has seen a consistent decline since around the year 2000, with new legislations, new alternatives like oral nicotine products and restrictions being put in place over the time span in different countries.
Norway was only the second country in the world, after Ireland, to ban smoking from all indoor public environments such as bars, clubs, and restaurants. This is a move that many other countries would learn and adopt, including England in 2006. This wasn’t met with great reception, with some businesses fearing this would hinder their business rather than improve it and installed more outdoor seating and smoking areas for their customers. And looking at economic reports, the concerns of bankruptcy and closures of businesses due to this smoking ban have been few.
The main indicator for the reason of this decline, is the introduction, promotion and popularity of oral nicotine products being available and heavily promoted in the countries, most notably Sweden as well as in Norway. I’m going to take a look into how Oral Nicotine products have helped these numbers drop right down in Sweden, and why the promotion of Nicotine pouches in other European countries could be crucial to help reduce smoking rates.
Oral Nicotine usage in Sweden
As mentioned, Oral nicotine product usage is huge in Sweden and also Norway, with the most popular type being Snus. Snus is a smokeless tobacco product which comes in the form of a small pouch which contains tobacco leaf, flavourings, and other additives.
Snus originates from the country of Sweden and has been around since the 19th century. It’s still heavily used and promoted in the country of Sweden and has also started seeing popularity rising in other neighbouring countries such as Denmark.
With the promotion and popularity of these smokeless tobacco pouches, smoking prevalence has seen a rapid and consistent decline over the last near 15 years since the public smoking ban came into effect and the usage of Snus has played a key factor in these numbers dwindling down.
Smoking prevalence reaches record low in Sweden
At the tail end of 2022, Swedish authorities announced officially confirmed that the current rate of smoking in Sweden had dropped right down to 5.6%, the lowest rate of any other European country, a massive well done to them! This also makes them the only European nation close to achieving the 5% or lower smoking rate goal originally set out by the European Union. They gave a realistic end date of 2040 for this to be achieved, so Sweden near enough reaching it 18 years ahead is not to be scoffed at and should be congratulated.
The President of the Health Diplomats organised a conference in November to announce and celebrate this amazing achievement and said that Sweden had created a “fire escape” for smokers to quit cigarettes, by creating and promoting a safer, smokeless alternative for people to get their required nicotine fix in the form of Snus, whilst also promoting the use of E-Cigarettes.
However, if you didn’t already know, Snus is actually banned in every country that are part of the European Union, as well as the United Kingdom (who left the EU in 2020, but still uphold the ban on Snus alongside other countries of the EU) but why has it been banned? Let’s take a look
The banning of Snus sales within the European Union
Snus was previously available to purchase in nearly all other countries involved in the European Union up until the early 1990s, when some countries then implemented a ban on the sale of Snus, before it was then banned from sale in the European Union.
This was down to a couple of reasons, with the first reason being the aggressive marketing techniques being implemented by specific manufacturers of Snus pouches. They wanted to use targeted marketing approaches deliberately aimed at university students who were around the age of 18 years or older to get them on board with using Oral tobacco products and creating a buzz about their products in social groups.
This then triggered the European Parliament to get involved and called for an EU wide ban on the sale of oral tobacco products due to this aggressive marketing, as well as the uncertainty of the safety of these products, whilst they are still a less harmful alternative than cigarettes, they do still contain tobacco which is harmful to health and the carcinogens can still lead to disease.
Just like the smoking ban in public places, Ireland was the first country in the European Union to enforce a ban on the sale of Oral Tobacco products in 1988, before Belgium and the United Kingdom followed in 1990 before a complete EU wide ban on the sale of oral tobacco products was introduced in 1992.
The use of oral Nicotine Pouches in the EU can help replicate Sweden’s success
Even though Snus is banned in the EU, this doesn’t mean that the success of smokeless tobacco products seen in Sweden cannot be replicated in other countries within the European Union, just using a different product, and that product being Nicotine Pouches.
Nicotine pouches have seen good growth in popularity since their introduction, especially in the UK, with the market growing considerably over the last three years since they were floated on to the UK market.
Nicotine pouches draw inspiration from the design of Snus pouches, with a similar white pouch design, but instead of containing tobacco, they just contain powder form nicotine, flavourings and other essential additives needed to create the pouches.
These are used in the same way as Snus pouches, where they’re placed under the top lip and rests between the lip and gum and the nicotine absorbs into the bloodstream via the gum, giving the user a satisfying nicotine fix every time they use one.
Use of these pouches has seen a small increase over the last few years, but still there’s some work to be done to create more awareness on the benefits of using these products that will help bring down the number of smokers in countries across the EU. Nicotine pouches are considerably safer than oral tobacco pouches as they do not contain any form of tobacco, only nicotine, which there has been no concrete evidence on the nicotine being harmful to the body.
E-Cigarettes have been heavily backed in a lot of countries in the EU, especially the United Kingdom, with doctors and health care professionals backing them as a safe alternative for nicotine. If the same amount of backing was given to nicotine pouches, it could really see a big impact on helping bring down smoking rates in different countries, and more could be reaching the sub 5% goal as set out by the European Union and reaching it much earlier than 2040, which was the projected end goal date set out.