Finland Wants to Cut Tobacco Use to 2% or Less by 2040

Finland Wants to Cut Tobacco Use to 2% or Less by 2040

Finnish government officials have announced a plan aimed at making sure just 2% or less of its population uses tobacco in any form by the year 2040. Ideally, more than 98% of the Finland population would turn their backs on cigarettes, snuff, and other forms of smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipes, and even e-cigarettes. [1]

Like many other areas of the world, smoking rates in Finland have declined in recent decades, thanks in part to bans on advertising and shop displays, and the creation of smoke-free public spaces. [2]

As of 2013, 16% of 15- to 64-year-olds in Finland smoked cigarettes, which means the country needs to achieve a 14% reduction in 23 years. 

Kaari Paaso, head of the unit on harm prevention at the country’s Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, said:

“The Finnish approach is revolutionary. We want to get rid of all tobacco products.” [1]

The government wants to rid the country of harmful tobacco products, not simply advocate less-harmful ones, like e-cigarettes and snuff.

Such measures have worked in other countries, however. For example, in neighboring Sweden, there has been a drastic decrease in smoking that was partly accomplished by promoting the use of snus. The product is banned in other European Union member states, along with other oral tobacco. In the UK, the government promotes the use of e-cigarettes to help people quit smoking cigarettes.

Source: KFSM

Paaso said:

“We don’t want to fall into the trap of other policies that have less harmful products. We want to phase out all products.”

Taxing the Public into Better Health

One of the most effective methods of cutting smoking rates is taxing cigarettes. In many cases, cigarette taxes have made smoking unaffordable to many people, and those who continue to smoke provide revenue for anti-smoking campaigns and quitting support services.

Vaughan Rees, director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained:

“The evidence suggests increasing pricing is the single most effective way to reduce demand. In states where we see the highest tax rates, we see the lowest prevalence.”

Rees pointed to New York City as an example, where then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced city taxes on top of state taxes in 2010. In 2016, just 14% of New Yorkers smoked.

The Finnish government has its own twist on cigarette taxes. Any business that wants to sell tobacco products is required to apply and pay for a license, and must pay an annual additional fee to cover the costs of surveillance officers in each municipality who will make sure retailers are following the rules.

The surveillance fee can be as much as €500 ($536) annually per checkout. This means that a store with 10 checkouts can rack up a yearly fee of at least $5,000, in addition to its license fee to sell tobacco.

The Finnish government doesn’t just want to make smoking too costly for buyers, it wants to make it too costly for sellers.

Other Measures

Finland’s efforts don’t stop with taxes and fees. Housing companies may also apply for a ban on people smoking neighboring balconies if their presence is a disturbance. In other words, if the smoke from someone’s balcony floats onto other spaces, housing companies can block that person from smoking on their balcony.

Additionally, it is illegal to smoke in private cars if you are transporting someone under the age of 15. The UK has a similar law, though the cutoff age is 18.

Similar measures have made an enormous impact on smoking rates among teens in Australia. In that country, the government has increased the prices of cigarettes, expanded smoke-free zones, and required that cigarettes be sold with plain packaging.

Compared to Finland, the United States has far more lax rules regarding tobacco use, but measures like smoking-cessation programs, smoke-free areas, media campaigns including graphic TV ads showing damage done by smoking, marketing restrictions, and cigarette taxes were credited in 2014 with saving 8 million lives since 1964.


[1] CNN

[2] Inhabitat