Swedes smoke a lot

How the Swedes force themselves to be healthy : Restrictive smoking ban entered into force

“I think the smoking ban is great,” says Per Sörengård from Västmanland. He is visiting Stockholm and is sitting with his beer in front of one of the many cafes in the old town. “That might make the smokers quit,” adds his wife Anki. Most Swedes think like the Sörengårds. According to surveys, around 80 percent of the population are in favor of smoking bans in public places.

The new Tobacco Act accommodates this wish. For a week, smoking has been banned in the outdoor areas of restaurants and cafes. It has also been smoking in front of pubs and shopping centers, on train platforms, at bus stops and on playgrounds and sports fields. E-cigarettes and hookahs are also covered by the law. A general ban on smoking in restaurants has been in force across the country since 2005.

"We want Sweden to become smoke-free by 2025," emphasizes the social democratic minister of social affairs Lena Hallengren. Sweden already has the lowest percentage of smokers in the EU. According to the Swedish Health Department, nine percent of the population smoked every day. Downward trend. For comparison: In Germany the rate is around 26 percent.

And then the police come - right?

The fact that the state forces citizens to do their own good in an emergency is nothing new and largely accepted in Sweden. For example, you can still only buy drinks with more than 3.5 percent alcohol from the state alcohol monopoly Systembolaget. Local public transport buses also have to be equipped with alcohol meters in many regions. The driver blows into the tube before the start. If the blood alcohol limit of 0.2 percent is exceeded, the bus cannot be started.

German tourists often joke that the driver is making someone else suck. That doesn't go down well in Sweden. Åke Ström, a retired bus driver and once avid smoker, thinks government intervention is right. “Bans are needed if people are not considerate of each other. Smoking is stupid, I quit after 40 years. The smoking ban is good because when you smoke you force others to smoke too. "

From kindergarten onwards, Swedes are conditioned to live together in a community. The group is at least as important as the individual. Against this background, the issue of vaccination refusal, for example, hardly plays a role in this country. But the extended smoking ban in Sweden cannot do without criticism. The journalist Mattias Svensson described the new law as “authoritarian populism” in the daily newspaper “Dagens Nyheter”.

It is completely unclear how it is to be implemented in practice. Because, paradoxically, smoking itself is not a criminal offense. It is only when a recalcitrant smoker refuses to leave the restaurant despite a request from the restaurant operator that he is liable to prosecution - for disturbing public order. Then the police should be called for help.

However, it is more than questionable whether it will be released. The Swedish police are already chronically overloaded. "We will not drive around and arrest smokers," explains the police spokesman for the city of Jönköping, Thomas Agnevik, in the local newspaper.

An important tobacco product is exempt from the ban

In the first week after the law came into force, there was no need for action, at least in Stockholm. "The police have not yet had to intervene," says Ola Österling, commissioner of the local police authority, when asked. "Also, no restaurant owners turned to us."

The new tobacco law, however, omits a Swedish peculiarity: sucking tobacco or "snus". Eighteen percent of men and four percent of women in Sweden use sucking tobacco every day. They can be recognized by their thick upper lip, under which is a portion of tobacco.

Selling tobacco is illegal in all EU countries. In Sweden it is on the shelf in every kiosk or supermarket. The red-green government also wanted to ban self-service and advertising in stores. However, this failed due to resistance from the opposition.

It is therefore important to listen carefully when Minister of Social Affairs Hallengren presents her vision. Sweden should be smoke-free by 2025, not tobacco-free. The Finns are further there. There, the government wants to ban all consumption of tobacco and nicotine products, including snuffing, by 2030. The Finns buy their tobacco in Sweden, by the way.

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