Youth organisations slam Non Smoking Generation - "Undemocratic"?

The government-backed Non Smoking Generation tried to stop young politicians from participating in a discussion on smoking and harm reduction. The reason was that the seminar was organised by the tobacco company Philip Morris.
"The Non Smoking Generation has an attitude towards freedom of expression that has no place in a democratic society," says Réka Tolnai, President of the Centre Party Youth Association (CUF).

See also: Young politicians want to promote less harmful nicotine use.

On Monday, the tobacco company Philip Morris organised a seminar entitled "A smoke-free Sweden - what happens next?" All political youth organisations were invited to the discussion. But only three showed up. It turned out that all those invited had received an email from the government-backed advocacy organisation Non Smoking Generation. The organisation urged politicians not to participate in talks with the tobacco industry.

"There was an incredible rhetoric of fear in the letter. They more or less say that anyone who uses snus should never have children. I find that deeply remarkable. Our job is to talk about our policies and to listen to different interest groups. I replied to everyone in the thread that they should more or less ignore who we are talking to," says Mr Snyder. Tobias Andersson, spokesperson for the Young Swedes, who nevertheless chose to participate in the seminar.

Criticism of harm reduction

According to Non Smoking Generation the discussion on harm reduction for smokers lacks scientific basis. 

"Tobacco products do not promote health. The Swedish population does not need nicotine." writes Helen Stjerna, Secretary General of the Non Smoking Generation in the the letter to politicians

The issue of tobacco harm reduction is also included in the WHO Tobacco Convention. But the debate on new nicotine products is characterised by widely differing views on how to deal with them in practice - both in terms of interpretation of the science and legislation. Officially, the WHO believes that e-cigarettes and other alternatives to cigarettes should be restricted in the same way as cigarettes, a position that has been severely criticised by hundreds of scientists and health professionals.

Calls for a balanced debate

"You can see that the issue of harm reduction is a loaded one and incredibly controversial," says Mr Perez. Tobias Andersson. "Those who choose to minimise any contact with an important industry are likely to do so because of pressure from other interest groups. And that's very sad, because one of the reasons for these conflicts is that we don't actually have a nuanced debate on tobacco and nicotine," says Mr Snyder. Tobias Andersson.

Not compatible with democracy

Réka Tolnai, President of the Centre Party's youth association CUF, also reacted strongly to the Non Smoking Generation's call.

"For me, in a democratic society, it is a matter of course to engage in dialogue with different organisations and companies. And that we as political representatives can be neutral in our professional practice. I am very concerned that established organisations such as the Non Smoking Generation are doing this. It indicates that they have an attitude that does not belong in a democracy like Sweden." she says.

"Need to talk to the industry"

Réka Tolnai believes that dialogue with industry is important for the development and future of public health.

"Those of us who are going to make decisions on these issues in the future have to talk to the people who work on them. We would probably all come to a meeting, even with the Non Smoking Generation, if they invited us."

Promoting nicotine medicines

Non Smoking generation is run by a foundation with a mission to combat smoking and tobacco use in Sweden. The foundation received (2020) almost three million from the state and county councils to run its activities. The foundation also reports two million in contributions from other, unnamed interest organisations and companies that support the lobbying work for various reasons. NSG has on several occasions in the past stated that politicians violate the WHO Tobacco Convention if they even meet representatives of the tobacco industry. According to NSG, all nicotine products, except for nicotine medicines, be severely restricted or banned.

Becomes embarrassed

Ulrika Karlsson (m), Member of Parliament and Health Policy Advisor at the UN, reacted with concern to the actions of the Non Smoking Generation.

"I was disturbed that they addressed the youth organisations so clearly, and that they put so much pressure on them on this issue. The Non Smoking Generation has the right to spread their views. But we who believe in freedom of expression must also stand up for it," she said during the discussion, which was broadcast live online on Monday.

A smoke-free Sweden, what happens next?
Twitter thread on the Non Smoking Generation letter

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1 Comment on “Ungdomsförbund ryter till mot Non Smoking Generation – ”Odemokratiska”

  1. It's not surprising about their attitude to free speech, given that it's a totalitarian prohibitionist movement with modern roots in the Third Reich.

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