Swedish Health Experts Report E-cigarette Use Helps Reduce Smoking Rate to Below 5%
Recently, several Swedish public health experts released a significant report titled “The Swedish Experience: A Roadmap to a Smoke-Free Society,” stating that by promoting e-cigarettes and other harm reduction products, Sweden is on the verge of reducing its smoking rate to below 5%, becoming the first “smoke-free” country in Europe and the world.
In 2021, the European Union announced the goal of achieving a “smoke-free Europe” by 2040, which means reducing the smoking rate (cigarette users/total population * 100%) to below 5%. Sweden has completed the task 17 years ahead of schedule, which is seen as a “milestone-like extraordinary feat.” The report shows that in 1963, when the national smoking rate was first recorded, Sweden had 1.9 million smokers, with 49% of men using cigarettes. Today, the number of smokers has decreased by 80%.
The key to Sweden’s remarkable achievement is the adoption of harm reduction strategies. “We know that cigarettes claim 8 million lives every year. If other countries in the world also encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarettes and other harm reduction products, 3.5 million lives could be saved in the EU alone in the next 10 years,” the authors emphasized in the report.
Since 1973, the Swedish Public Health Agency has been consciously controlling tobacco use through harm reduction products. Whenever a new product appears, regulatory authorities research the relevant scientific evidence, and if the product is proven to be less harmful, they relax regulations and even promote the product to the public.
In 2015, e-cigarettes became popular in Sweden. That same year, authoritative international research confirmed that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than cigarettes. Swedish authorities immediately encouraged smokers to switch to e-cigarettes. Data shows that the proportion of e-cigarette users in Sweden rose from 7% in 2015 to 12% in 2020. In contrast, the Swedish smoking rate dropped from 11.4% in 2012 to 5.6% in 2022.
“Pragmatic and open-minded management methods have greatly improved Sweden’s public health environment.” The World Health Organization confirms that Sweden’s cancer incidence rate is 41% lower than that of other EU member states. Sweden also has the lowest lung cancer incidence and male smoking-related death rates in Europe. More importantly, Sweden has cultivated a “smoke-free generation”: the latest data shows that the smoking rate among Swedish youth aged 16-29 is only 3%, far below the EU requirement of 5%.
“The Swedish experience is a gift to the global public health community. If every country controlled tobacco use like Sweden, tens of millions of lives would be saved.” The report also offers several recommendations on “how to replicate the Swedish model,” including publicly acknowledging the harm reduction benefits of e-cigarettes, educating the public—especially smokers—about these benefits, providing appropriate policy support, and making it easy for smokers to purchase e-cigarettes.