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How change in fiscal policy can help tackle smoking

Health Opinion


When it comes to public health strategy, Sweden has shattered the glass ceiling of conventional wisdom, becoming the world’s foremost champion in reducing smoking rates.

Swedish policymakers recently decided to slash taxes by 20 per cent on snus, a form of nicotine pouch that’s less harmful than cigarettes.

It’s a move that will save lives and is a lesson in nuanced governance that could revolutionise public health in Kenya.

The ongoing debate about the safety and regulation of alternative nicotine products often finds itself tangled in a web of misinformation and ideological rigidity.

While naysayers continue to lump all nicotine products together in a campaign against public health, the Swedish government recently proposed a 20 per cent tax cut for snus alongside a 9 percent tax hike for cigarettes.

This is not merely an economic policy; it’s a public health strategy grounded in science and factual differentiation between various nicotine products based on their risk levels. Sweden’s proactive approach to tobacco harm reduction provides a roadmap for Kenya and other countries in Africa that are grappling with the devastating consequences of smoking-related diseases.

This Scandinavian nation is on the verge of achieving “smoke-free” status, a feat largely attributable to its evidence-based policies.

 With a remarkable 5.6 per cent smoking rate that’s quickly approaching the World Health Organisation’s ‘smoke-free’ threshold of five per cent, Sweden also boasts Europe’s lowest incidence of smoking-related diseases and is 17 years ahead of the European Union’s 2040 target for achieving the same status.

So, what makes Sweden so successful in reducing smoking? It’s simple: the government relies on real data rather than scare tactics and chooses to guide smokers toward better options instead of just punishing them.

Instead of treating all nicotine products the same, Sweden offers a practical, risk-based approach to regulating alternative nicotine products like snus, nicotine pouches, and vaping.

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