"How we became smoke-free" stories from Sweden

How do Swedes stay smoke-free? This is the question Vejpkollen and Convenience Stores Sweden are asking in a new series of articles that will run during the spring at Convenience Stores News.

In an ongoing series of articles this spring, you will meet vapers, snus users, nicotine pouch users and everything in between from different parts of Sweden - a country where hardly anyone smokes anymore. They tell their stories about how they went from smoking to alternative nicotine products - and how the journey to becoming smoke-free actually happened.

But why do this? Who cares about this smoker in our country in a cold corner of the world?

Sweden hardly smokes anymore

The series of articles is really an attempt to understand the reality behind the claim that Sweden will soon be a 'smoke-free country'. Because even though half a million Swedes still smoke, they are still only 6 per cent of the adult population. This is really low. According to WHO and EU criteria, it is on the borderline of the definition of "smoke-free". This is the "major goal" of the WHO Tobacco Convention, a treaty that was established over 20 years ago. But although smoking is declining in many (western) countries, it is going faster in Sweden. Much faster, in fact. We are far ahead of everyone else.

Tough anti-smoking policies?

I recently asked an influential doctor working on tobacco prevention in Sweden what he thought this was due to. He often appears as an expert at seminars organised by the think tank Tobaksfakta and as a commentator in the media. According to him, and many others active in the anti-tobacco movement, Sweden's low smoking rate is due to tough legislation and very successful tobacco prevention: bans, a few more bans and a good dose of stigmatisation. Smoking has disappeared because of tough policies, something the anti-tobacco movement has been advocating for decades.

Not a good explanation

The problem with this explanation is that Sweden has not been alone in pursuing this hard line against smoking. We've seen similar legislation in many other countries, and virtually every European country has tough rules in place. The EU average is 23% smokers.. In Sweden it is six per cent. Among young people, the figures are even lower. Tough rules don't seem to be the key here, it's obviously something else. Also.

The role of snus?

As most people already know snusing very many in Sweden. Almost 20 per cent of men. 10 per cent of women. Among young people, where less than 10 per cent smoke daily, it is decreasing rapidly as the use of nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes increases. An alternative explanation for why so few people smoke here in Sweden seems to be the use of alternatives to cigarettes, among both adults and young people. We see a similar patterns in Norwaybut not so much in Finland, where snus has not been allowed to be sold for 20 years and e-cigarettes are heavily restricted by a flavour ban (in Finland, 14% of the population smoke).

A successful combination

I personally believe that the explanation for our low smoking rates is not so simple that it can be found in one or the other. Having spoken and interviewed so many nicotine users over the years, a colourful pattern has emerged. Every person's journey to becoming smoke-free is lined with, on the one hand, reactions to various external circumstances, such as a ban on smoking in pubs, more expensive cigarettes, a ban on the beloved menthol cigar. On the other hand, we have that friend who brought an e-cig to the party, or the snus that has always been there to complement smoking, or just a flatmate who thought it smelled too bad at home after a round on the balcony.

Cannot be simplified

Behind that 6 per cent there are thousands of stories. It's not just about an anti-voice line in politics. It's more about reactions and interactions, sometimes in line with the policy, sometimes as a counter-reaction to the policy, sometimes completely outside the policy. I am quite convinced that a ban on smoking in pubs in Sweden (or Norway) does not mean the same thing to a nicotine user as it does in Finland or France, for example. The difference is a little pill under the lip, bought in the shop around the corner.

Addiction - sink or swim?

A common thread among the people I have spoken to is the idea that water always takes the easiest way down the mountain. The bond that many people have with smoking is not just about an addiction to nicotine. It is just as much about self-confidence, self-image and enjoyment. Positive things, a flow that finds its way down the mountain of life. Quitting smoking is often about coming to terms with your vices, for some it's easiest to just throw them overboard, for others it's about shifting the burden. Alternative sources of nicotine are one of many ways to let the water flow, without clogging important outlets that cause damming.
Allowing the load to become a flotation aid, rather than a burden.

The stories of non-smokers

In the stories I am trying to highlight, the availability of strawberry-flavoured e-cigarettes, citrus-scented snus and berry-sweet nicotine pouches play a crucial role. These are mums, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers, sons and daughters who don't smoke anymore. In a country that is almost smoke-free.

Stefan Mathisson

Here you can read the reports in Convenience Stores Sweden News (updated regularly).

Björn Åslander - e-cigs - "It has to taste like smoke"

Nikita Lövheden in Partille - e-cigs and heets - "Can't stand tobacco flavours"

Therese Johansson - from W.A.S.P to nicotine pouches - "One day I want to quit nicotine too"

Håkan Friedrich - After 40 years he switched to e-cigs and nicotine packs

Miirza Kadovic - e-cigs - Same feeling with coffee - but better for health and cheaper

5 Comments on “”Så blev vi rökfria” -berättelser från Sverige

  1. Wish smoking was over for me ... but but terribly difficult despite my lung cancer.
    Plasters od. Does not help me. Champix is an anti-smoking medicine that was good but with the corona so LAS manufacturing down t.v and does not exist yet just had time to redeem the starter kit. Uses mostly e-cig which is good too but not 100% for me. But I fight on

  2. Hi, I am 70 years old and smoked from about 17 years of age. It was cigarettes and from about 1998 also nicotine chewing gum where I was not allowed to smoke. But the desire to quit smoking was there all the time and many attempts were made🥴. But in 2018 I got a pulmonary embolism and was hospitalised for a week at the hospital and then I again saw the opportunity to make another attempt to quit smoking and I succeeded. So my advice to all smokers is "never give up" there will be a day when you get tired of the misery. And the best of all is that even my daughter has stopped everything that contained nicotine👍.

  3. I quit smoking 2.5 years ago without any problems .I started with nicotine snuff without tobacco one day before I quit smoking .I quit completely abruptly one day had decided before so it was from I opened my eyes in the morning .I have not had the urge to smoke anything because of the white nicotine snuff .It pays off financially with .I do not snuff a can a day .Good luck

  4. It's so much bullshit, if you want to stop smoking you shouldn't go over to another addiction, it's not the tobacco itself that's dangerous but all the additives nicotine among others. My mother put a packet of cigarettes in the fridge and never smoked again. It's all in the head. Acupuncture is also great. But vape, white snuff is more harmful, all the research says the same thing. I have seen people stand and vomit when they vape. It should be banned, the vapours are harmful to the lungs.

    1. Karin. I don't know where you get your information, but when it comes to tobacco and nicotine, unfortunately the science is against you. There is actually a broad consensus that it is the SMOKE from burnt tobacco that is the most harmful way to use nicotine, and that the vapour from e-cigarettes (or nicotine from both traditional snus and white snus) is significantly less harmful to the lungs, blood vessels and the body in general. Unfortunately, the research, or researchers, who say otherwise have often been found to be heavily burdened by various so-called "biases". That is, for some reason, they have not treated the data correctly (or performed tests incorrectly, exaggerated risks in their analyses, etc). Often, but not always, this can be traced to specific funding or to researchers actively working to influence legislation or public opinion on the issue of nicotine. Unfortunately, I would say. We need more research and more honest information about different types of nicotine use. But to categorically say that all nicotine use is equally dangerous is just unscientific.
      Having said that.
      I'm glad your mum quit smoking. Many others have not had the same success with her particular method. Taping has been shown to be an effective tool for smoking cessation (e.g. Cochrane's rolling review of randomised control trials, links below).
      That "people stand and vomit" when they roadmap sounds really strange. Considering how many millions of road users we have in the world today, such a phenomenon should result in really sticky streets... if what you say is true.

      Stefan Mathisson
      responsible publisher

      Links to take advantage of:
      Cochrane: E-cigarettes, varenicline and cytisine are the most effective stop-smoking aids, analysis of over 150,000 smokers reveals

      Cochrane: Latest Cochrane Review finds high certainty evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes are more effective than traditional nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) in helping people quit smoking

      UK Public Health Agency's annually updated report on the state of science on e-cigarettes (consensus)
      Nicotine vaping in England: 2022 evidence update main findings


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