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Icelanders now smoke less than any other nation: Cigarette smoking collapsed since 2008

By Staff

  • Cigarettes Smoking is illegal in bars and cafés, but most establishments offer outside smoking areas where you can indulge in the rain and cold. Photo/Vísir

Recent figures from the Icelandic Directorate of Health (pdf) shows that there has been a steep drop in cigarette smoking among Icelanders in recent years. Only 9% of Icelanders smoke daily. A additional 3% say they are social smokers who smoke less than one cigarette daily. The vast majority of young people (69%) have never smoked and record numbers of adults who at some time begun smoking have given up the unhealthy habit.

Healthier lifestyle choices
Guðmundur Karl Snæbjörnsson, a medical doctor and anti-tobacco activist, told the local news site Vísir that the collapse of cigarette smoking in Iceland was nothing short of a miracle. He argues that the growing popularity of e-cigarettes or vaping is the main reason Icelanders now smoke less than virtually any other nation.

Read more: Icelanders are second healthiest people in the world, according to Bloomberg health index

Read more: Study: Icelandic health care system the second best worldwide

Studies show Icelanders are among the healthiest people in the world, and Icelanders certainly live longer than most. Doctors pointed to various factors, including access to first rate universal healthcare, a healthy diet and clean water and air, but lifestyle choices also play an important role. Low levels of smoking are among the most important.

Thank vaping, taxes and the financial crash
Cigarette sales have plummeted since 2008, down by more than 50% in 2008-2017. A combination of high cigarette prices, due to heavy taxation, and the effects of the 2008 financial crash are no doubt an important reason for this drop. The Directorate of Health points to the growing popularity of vaping, which is quickly replacing cigarette smoking in Iceland as another key reason.

The consumption of other tobacco products has increased over the same period, while cigarette smoking has dropped. This includes snus, which young Icelandic men use orally (a package of snus is stuffed under the upper lip). The consumption of Snus has nearly doubled since 2008, not least because snus was cheaper than tobacco.

Two dramatic tax hikes (both a doubling of the tax rate on snus) in recent years have halted the increase in its consumption, leading to a drop in its consumption since 2016. In 2016 12% of young males (18-29 year old) were regular consumers of snus. In 2017 this figure had dropped to 11%. Casual snus consumption dropped more. In 2016 8% of young men used snus socially, but only 4% in 2017.

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