Finland pledges to be tobacco-free by 2040

Maddie Boone, Staff Writer

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In a world where smoking and vaping have become more mainstream than ever before, Finland recently made plans to cut out a deadliest ingredient from every part of its health-conscious society: tobacco. Tobacco products and manufacturers have been criticized for years by public health officials for their use of known carcinogens, but few countries have implemented strong enough regulations to deter their use fully. As is the case in many other countries, tobacco use has been on the decline for years in Finland, but beginning this year, Finland has set a new and revolutionary goal to become tobacco-free by 2040. Taking notes from the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative, Finland has begun the lengthy process of ridding tobacco from all products.

This new approach will be revolutionary, since officials are not trying to simply switch users to less harmful products, such as snus and e-cigarettes, but are trying to completely eradicate the use of tobacco. This is due to the largely held belief by state officials in Finland that the promotion of less harmful products will serve as an alternate addictive substance and will not kick habits. This tobacco removal process will begin with raising costs for vendors selling tobacco products. While taxing and raising prices deters individuals from buying certain products, cutting off tobacco from the source may be most effective. Businesses interested in selling tobacco will now have to pay for a license in addition to an annual surveillance fee to fund officers who will routinely check retailers.

In addition to licensing and monitoring product costs, Finland wants to stop current tobacco users from continuing to use the substance, and also to deter the nation’s youth from ever using it. Restricting stores that sell candies and chocolates that imitate the appearance of cigarettes would begin this endeavor. The other tobacco product that is very appealing is e-cigarettes. Regulation on e-cigarettes already began last summer in Finland, treating them like regular cigarettes and restricting sale and use. These e-cigarette regulations also included the elimination of flavored e-cigarettes. The use of flavors tends to draw youth into the use of e-cigarettes; the use of flavors is, according to the director of Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Vaughan Rees, “intrinsically appealing to children.”

More measures on publicly and privately smoking tobacco are being put into place regarding when smoking is perceived to be a disturbance. Housing companies in Finland are able to apply for a ban if smoke from an individual’s private balcony is spreading to neighboring areas and causing a disturbance. This is among the first of bans to address smokers’ private space while most smoking jurisdiction has previously regulated public spaces. In line with smokers’ private space, there is also a ban on smoking in a vehicle while a minor under the age of fifteen is present. While this may not be a new idea, the set age is lower than ever, with previous regulation by the United Kingdom’s minor age being set at 18.

This mission to reduce tobacco consumption is occurring globally. By 2025, the World Health Organization wants to reduce the numbers of smokers over the age of 15 by 30 percent. Many countries have begun to take a stab at the issue, but Finland stands alone as a pioneer trying to eliminate use entirely. Global tobacco-related deaths are too prevalent and too preventable. Countries should take note of Finland and hopefully in coming years we can see the world inch towards this goal. After all, it is our health at stake.

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