Thursday, February 02, 2017 by Jude Henry
We’re all familiar with designated nonsmoking areas in restaurants and other public places. But how about a nonsmoking country? Could it be? If Finland has its way, the answer is a resounding “yes.” The country’s goal is to be mostly tobacco-free by 2040. And that trend might waft over into the rest of the world.
Finland was already moving toward having a lower number of smokers in the country, thanks to a variety of factors such as cutting back on advertising for smoking. About 16% of people in Finland between the ages of 15 and 64 were daily smokers in Finland in 2013.
And now, Finland’s goal is for there to be less than 2% of their population using tobacco products by 2040. That includes not just cigarettes but all other tobacco-containing products, such as chewing tobacco, cigars, pipes, and e-cigarettes.
Finland plans to achieve this goal through policies they put into place in January 2017, such as a ban on smoking on homes’ balconies if the smoke bothers someone else. Another piece of the new rules makes prices that vendors charge for tobacco products extremely high, which experts believe proves successful. It also increases the prices people have to pay for tobacco products, which can essentially make smoking unaffordable. And that automatically causes people to have to kick the habit.
“The evidence suggests increasing pricing is the single most effective way to reduce demand,” according to Vaughan Rees at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Another new measure prohibits people from smoking in privately owned cars when children who are 15 years old or younger are in those cars.
Even top leaders in Finland acknowledge the dramatic nature of the 2% goal. “The Finnish approach is revolutionary,” proclaimed Kaari Paaso with Finland’s Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. “We want to get rid of all tobacco products.” (RELATED: Read StopSmoking.news for more breaking news about the dangers of smoking.)
If Finland can achieve its goal of lowering the smoking level, it would also mean a decrease in the health issues that can result from smoking, including lung cancer, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, and many other respiratory problems. There are many non-respiratory health problems that smoking causes too.
The tobacco-free goal does not just affect people who smoke. It affects everyone. As the American Lung Association and other organizations state, a nonsmoker being exposed to tobacco smoke coming from a smoker, also known as secondhand smoke, affects the health of everyone breathing the smoky air. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke.
Rather than resorting to Big Brother tactics, one key is educating children on the danger that tobacco products pose and encouraging people when they are young to never start smoking. Once a person starts smoking and becomes addicted, it can be extremely difficult to quit, so it’s best to never start. However, even among people who have already become tobacco users, there are those who successfully quit. So breaking free from the habit can definitely happen.
The results of Finland’s nonsmoking policy would undoubtedly also include dramatic savings on healthcare costs. Having a healthier population and saving large amounts of money can increase the country’s overall strength.
Other countries, including the United States, would be wise to find ways to further decrease smoking levels. The U.S. would be a healthier and probably wealthier country (in the form of cost savings on currently astronomical health care expenses) if it could lower the smoking rate further compared to where it is now. And that would be music to everyone’s ears.