How Sweden is inching towards becoming first 'smoke-free' country in Europe

Mohammad Bilal
Mohammad BilalJun 02, 2023 | 08:00

How Sweden is inching towards becoming first 'smoke-free' country in Europe

Sweden had announced a complete ban on public smoking in 2018. Photo: Getty

Sweden is all set to realize its dream, which it saw nearly 20 years back, which was to have a smoke free country by 2025. The term 'smoke-free' is defined by the Sweden government when less 5% of the population in the country smokes.

On Wednesday (May 31), as the World Health Organization (WHO) marked World No Tobacco Day, Sweden was reported to be close to becoming the first smoke-free country in the European Union (EU) with only 5% people in the country smoking.


The country had banned smoking in bars and restaurants in 2005, and in the last few years had been on a rigorous policy implementations to curb smoking.

How did Sweden become almost smoke free?

Sweden had announced a complete ban on public smoking in 2018, that included parks, train stations, bus stations etc. 

In 2019, only 6.4% of Swedes over 15 were daily smokers. Figures from the Public Health Agency of Sweden shows that the numbers have fallen since then and reached 5.6% last year.

It is believed that shifting to snus (a powdered tobacco which is placed under the upper lip), is one of the reasons why people stopped smoking. It is banned in most EU countries, but Sweden allowed it to be used to curb the smoking.

Snus, a powdered tobacco placed behind the upper lip is used extensively by the Swedish people to shift from smoking. Photo: AFP

The Swedes had figured out snus as a good alternative to cigarettes in the 1990s only without the intervention of the government. In 1984, 34% of Swedes smoked, and this figure started coming down post 1990s when people switched to an alternative to smoking.

By 1996, more snus cans started to be sold than cigarettes. Even the government introduced tax incentives to allow people to switch to other types of tobacco to achieve the smoke-free target.


Along with this, a strong legislation by the government and ample support from the Swedish society is marked as one of the reasons for successful curbing of smoking in adults.

Why Sweden government introduced curbs on smoking

Though the sale of cigarettes also gets the government an enormous amount of monetary benefit in the form of tax, the Sweden government decided to stomp it out in view of the huge public cost it was causing.

As per the government data, smoking incurs huge cost on Swedish society. The annual cost of smoking is expected to be 31.5 billion Swedish Krona (SEK) (about $3.4 billion), of which, SEK 7.6 billion (about $816 million) pertains to treatement of heart and cardiovascular diseases from smoking.

The government in its research found that the largest cost to society was the loss caused by smokers taking sick leaves from work due to smoking-induced illness. The government commission that was tasked to research the cost of smoking on Swedish society estimated that half of the smokers' life expectancy was reduced by 10 years.

Last updated: June 02, 2023 | 11:40
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