Three million more Europeans, including 680,000 in the UK, would be alive today if other countries had implemented Sweden’s ‘smoke free’ and tobacco harm reduction strategy, a new report has revealed.
Launched today in Warsaw, where the 10th edition of the Global Forum on Nicotine kicked off, the ‘Saving Lives Like Sweden’ report by Smoke Free Sweden shows that the huge number of deaths would have been averted in just two decades.
The report has called on other countries to study and embrace the Scandinavian country’s progressive model of tobacco control, complemented by harm reduction strategies. Crucially, it asked policymakers to follow the Swedish example of making less harmful alternatives more acceptable, available and affordable than cigarettes.
In March, the group of international experts revealed how Sweden is poised to become the first World Health Organization (WHO) member state to achieve smoke-free status. It has reached this historic milestone – 17 years ahead of schedule – by combining tobacco control methods with harm minimisation strategies.
The Smoke Free Sweden movement’s latest report illustrates the potentially tremendous impact on lives across WHO member states if the Swedish model is applied on a larger scale.
Key findings include:
- Between 2000 and 2019, some 2.9 million deaths could have been averted if the EU had the same smoking-attributable death rate as Sweden.
- The implementation of the Swedish model could have allowed EU citizens to live an extra 108 million healthy life years during the same period.
- The study which analyses comparable data from 12 European countries shows that the most lives would have been saved in the UK (680,000).
“This should serve as a clarion call to the WHO and global public health organisations to study and adopt the harm reduction strategies implemented by Sweden,” Dr Delon Human, one of the report’s authors, said.
“These strategies have the potential to save millions of lives and significantly reduce the burden of smoking-related diseases worldwide.”
The first report, The Swedish Experience: A Roadmap To A Smoke-Free Society, examined how Swedish policymakers have virtually wiped out smoking by making alternative nicotine products, such as vapes and oral pouches, accessible, acceptable and affordable to adult smokers.
In 15 years, Sweden’s adult smoking rate has been cut from 15 per cent to 5.6 per cent. Later this year that will fall below 5 per cent, the level officially classified as smoke-free.
In addition to having the lowest percentage of tobacco-related diseases among EU countries, Sweden also exhibits a 41 per cent lower incidence of cancer and a 38 per cent lower cancer death rate compared to its EU counterparts, according to the report.
“Swedish policymakers have offered smokers a fire escape to move away from their deadly cigarette addiction. We should be celebrating Sweden’s remarkable success and holding up its policies as best-case practice,” Dr Human, who is leader of the Smoke Free Sweden movement, added.
“Public health entities worldwide should seize the opportunity for global replication of Sweden’s successful approach. Together, we can work towards a smoke-free world and ensure the well-being of future generations.”