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Safer nicotine alternatives lead to significant reduction in smoking rates: study

November 8, 2023

Photo: iStock

US think tank Tholos Foundation on Wednesday released a policy paper, Safer Nicotine Works, on how Sweden and Japan have successfully reduced smoking rates by introducing safer alternative nicotine products.

Safer Nicotine Works, written in partnership with Japan-based Pacific Alliance Institute and Sweden-based consulting firm Scantech Strategy Advisors, investigates oral nicotine and heated tobacco’s effects on smoking rates in Sweden and Japan.

The paper follows Vaping Works, which studied four countries’ vaping experiences and found that nations adopting vaping, like the UK, France, Canada, and New Zealand, experienced smoking rate reductions at double the global average.

In Japan, the introduction of heated tobacco products has remarkably reduced male smoking rates below 30 per cent for the first time, reversing previous stagnation.

Sweden, with a smoking rate of 5.6 per cent is poised to be ‘smoke-free’ within the year. The recent decline in smoking is attributed to the rise of nicotine pouches.

Tholos Foundation’s research indicates consumers in both countries led the shift to safer alternatives. Policymakers’ key role was to ensure these alternatives were accessible and viable. Data confirms that safer nicotine significantly aids smoking cessation. With safer nicotine products like vaping, heated tobacco, nicotine pouches, and snus, smoking rates are dropping rapidly.

“Safer nicotine is, quite literally, saving lives around the world. The experience of Sweden and Japan, just as in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and France, proves that when people have access to safer products, they choose them in huge numbers,” Lorenzo Montanari, Tholos Foundation vice president, commented.

“We now have the tools we need to fight harmful high smoking rates: governments around the world must now support their citizens to make a better choice.”

The paper said Sweden and Japan’s success in lowering smoking rates highlights the efficacy of comprehensive tobacco control strategies. They have regulated alternative nicotine products, prioritising public health.

Their experiences also provide key lessons for nations aiming to decrease smoking and encourage smoke-free alternatives, it noted. By enabling access to safer alternative nicotine products and implementing appropriate regulations, countries significantly improve public health outcomes and address smoking.