Saving lives like Sweden

When it comes to smoking rates and reaching global health’s goal of a smoke-free world by 2040, Sweden is the only country about to achieve an adult smoking prevalence of 5% (or less) to classify as smoke free.

The fact is that, with the exception of Sweden, tobacco demand worldwide has declined too slowly – and, in some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) not at all – in the 18 years since the World Health Organisation (WHO) established its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Globally, 1.3 billion people still use tobacco, with nearly 8 million deaths due to tobacco-related causes and 200 million years of life lost every year.

The report Saving Lives Like Sweden examines Sweden's tobacco control and harm reduction strategies and compares these to the tobacco control performance of the European Union (EU) and selected other countries.

It provides facts, analyses and calculations on total deaths, disability-adjusted life years averted, and life years saved in Sweden. Unfortunately, WHO data on tobacco-attributable deaths is outdated and assumptions had to be made to estimate key health metrics in Sweden and make comparisons with other countries.

The report thus invites critique of methodology and encourages debate and the development of more accurate databases and methods. It also calls on the WHO and global public health to not only study the harm reduction strategies employed in Sweden but also develop epidemiologically sound methods to calculate the ‘size of the prize’ for public health.

Saving Lives Like Sweden examines the tobacco control objective of becoming smoke free as well as current methods employed to achieve this goal. It analyses current simulation modelling frameworks and notes their application to various countries.

The report highlights a recent Swedish consumer perception study to show how important a whole-of-society approach and understanding consumer behaviour are to successfully address the challenge of the tobacco epidemic.

Sweden’s success in reducing smoking rates is irrefutable: its smoking prevalence of 5.6% is nearly five times lower than the EU average of 23%. Studying and replicating Sweden’s tobacco control and harm reduction strategies can alter the future for countless smokers and save millions of lives around the world.

For more information on Sweden’s smoke-free success story, see also The Swedish Experience, a Roadmap to a Smoke free World.

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