Replicating Success: How New Zealand is Adopting Sweden’s Smoke-Free Strategy

New Zealand’s journey from high smoking rates to harm-reduction success.

Smoke-Free Sweden’s new report, “Quitting Strong: New Zealand’s Smoking Cessation Success Story”, provides a detailed example of how harm reduction is not dependent on geographical location, historical similarities, or other such factors. Instead, the report showcases how a smoke-free future is attainable for all countries - if only they embrace harm-reduction strategies in their social and legal spheres.

Despite the 17,000 kilometres between the two countries, Sweden and New Zealand have demonstrated that a smoke-free future is not only attainable but at hand. While Sweden has been able to reduce its adult smoking rate to 5.6% in 2022 by utilising risk-reduced alternatives like vaping, snus, and oral nicotine products, New Zealand is at a current smoking rate of 6.8% through similar methods. Both countries are steadily moving towards being labelled smoke-free by 2025 once their rates fall under 5%.

In contrast, Australia's restrictive policies on vaping are highlighted as a cautionary tale. Despite having similar demographics and historically high smoking rates, Australia has adopted a prescription-only model for vaping products. Introduced in 2021 to curb underage vaping, the prescription-only model has had unintended consequences. The cumbersome and costly process to obtain a prescription, combined with the limited availability of vape supplies in pharmacies, has driven many vapers to the black market. As a result, Australia's smoking prevalence remains higher than New Zealand's, with 8.3% of adults smoking compared to New Zealand's 6.8%.

Alongside increasing access to risk-reduced alternatives, New Zealand has also engaged in harm-reduction strategies such as emphasising government recognition of harm reduction, public education, combatting misinformation, and proportionate regulation to achieve substantial declines in smoking rates and improve public health outcomes. The report recommends that other nations adopt similar strategies to effectively replicate Sweden and New Zealand’s success, offering a promising pathway to a smoke-free future.

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