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A commentary from Tobaksfakta on the recent tobacco policy development in Sweden: ”At last!”

2015-02-24

–      At last a health minister who does his job and takes responsibility for the children in Sweden!

Margaretha Haglund, Swedish tobacco control expert, is very hopeful in her comments on the new tobacco law proposals presented by health minister Gabriel Wikström (Social Democrat).

There is an ongoing investigation into the implementation of the new EU Tobacco Products Directive in Sweden. The investigation has now been commissioned by Gabriel Wikström and the Swedish government with a supplemental directive. Thus this investigation has been extended to look into three areas that were not originally included in its assignment. Those areas are:

1/ Restriction of tobacco smoking and the smoking of tobacco-related products (e-cigarettes) in outdoor public places. In line with this, the investigation will proceed with a proposal from the Public Health Agency. Certain outdoor environments are identified as being particularely important to investigate as children spend a lot of time there; platforms for public transport, outdoor cafes, playgrounds, sports and outdoor arenas.

2 / Display ban for tobacco products in retail stores, i.e. to keep tobacco out of sight of customers. Tobacco Display bans already exist in for example Norway, Finland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and the UK.

3 / Plain tobacco packaging. Thanks to the EU’s tobacco directive to be introduced next year, the EU countries will get spacious health warnings with text and images on cigarette packs. The EU Directive also allows countries to go ahead and introduce plain packs, as Ireland and the UK already have decided to do.

– We have waited so long for a Swedish government to take these actions! The tobacco industry will of course do everything it can to hamper these proposals, but we know that these measures are effective and that there is strong public support for them, says Margaretha Haglund, a tobacco policy expert of Tobaksfakta – an independent Swedish think tank.

– All three proposals are highlighted in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as very effective, not least to stop the recruitment of smoking among children and adolescents.

In his opinion peace in the biggest daily newspaper health minister Gabriel Wikström wrote the other day that more than 100 000 Swedes have died from smoking since smokefree restaurants and cafes were introduced ten years ago. Since then no more major tobacco reforms have been introduced. The new Swedish alliance government has set the goal to stop avoidable health inequalities in Sweden within a generation. The governments´ tobacco policy initiatives are intended as steps towards that goal. 

In his article the health minister also highlights the advocacy project Tobacco Endgame – Smoke Free Sweden 2025.  In this project Tobaksfakta works together with numerous other organizations to develop a national policy decision on a target date when smoking should be down to a level where it is no longer a dominating public health problem. Tobacco Endgame is an international movement and similar efforts are under way in many other countries. The health minister writes that the Government welcomes the goal of a smokefree Sweden in 2025 and sees the need for strong measures to achieve it.

– We are today some 60 organizations behind Tobacco Endgame in our country that are all very active in bringing the message forward. It feels good that we have reached this far, says Ewy Thörnqvist, Secretary General of Tobaksfakta.

– Our clear goals and proposals are needed to create health equity in our country.

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