Chronicle: "Tobacco and harm minimisation, an illogical impossibility?"

CHRONICLE. Our authorities claim that harm minimisation for smokers does not work, and that the decline in the Swedish smoking rate is due to our generous paternity leave. Well, that's actually what the officials in Sweden have said. Not a word about harm-minimising snus (or nicotine pouches or e-cigarettes). It becomes such an absurd claim that one suspects our authorities are trying to pull the wool over our eyes.
Who knows, maybe that's the case?

What if the Swedish Transport Safety Agency had claimed that the reduction in the number of road deaths and injuries was not at all due to the fact that cars have become safer with injury minimising measures such as seat belts, lots of airbags and crumple zones? That the explanation is simply that Sweden has many fathers on parental leave. I think most people would consider our road safety agency to be less talented or wonder what they actually have in their coffee in the break room.

Harm minimisation for everything - except nicotine

The curious thing is that the benefits of harm minimisation are interpreted differently, depending on the area.

  • In alcohol policy, there has been a deliberate and successful campaign since the 1970s to shift Swedish alcohol consumption from hard liquor to weaker alternatives. So harm minimisation apparently works for alcohol.
  • In traffic, as I mentioned earlier, we have worked on safety inside the car. But everything in traffic, such as pedestrian crossings, speed limits, bicycle helmets, traffic lights, pedestrian and bicycle lanes, even driving licence requirements, are measures to minimise injuries. Therefore, fewer people die in traffic.
  • On the lake we wear life jackets and on the ice we wear ice pads, which is injury minimisation. We teach children to swim at school. As a result, fewer people die when they insist on enjoying our lakes and oceans.
  • We do not sell dangerous drugs without a prescription, and are restrictive about prescribing antibiotics. Why? Well, to minimise risk and harm - harm minimisation.
  • Buildings are constructed according to Swedish building standards and fixed electrical and plumbing installations may only be carried out by authorised personnel, which is also damage minimisation. Fewer people are injured by improperly constructed buildings - even though they use them daily.

Are we being cheated?

The list could go on and on, but it can be said that EVERYTHING in our society works according to a harm minimisation principle. Despite this, many of our politicians and authorities say that when it comes to tobacco, harm minimisation is absolutely not a workable approach.

Judge for yourself, but I think we are being duped.

By the way: Almost all normal people understand that snus, nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes are keeping smoking at record low levels in Sweden, despite the high use of nicotine. This is harm minimisation in practice and saves the lives of many Swedes. Isn't it soon time to recognise this officially as well?


Karl-Åke Johansson
Spokesperson NNA Sweden

1 Comment on “Krönika: ”Tobak och skademinimering, en ologisk omöjlighet?”

  1. Have also heard this about paternity leave, quite a bizarre statement:) How do you explain that significantly more women than men smoke? If at a low level compared to the rest of Europe.

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