Chapters:0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak 0:26 - Finland's struggles to catch up with Sweden 1:40 - Finland inherits EU snus ban 2:31 - Snus popular despite Finnish ban 3:16 - Political motivation for THR in FInland 3:45 - Closing remarks
Hello and welcome. I'm Joana Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. Today we'll be speaking
with Will Gauthrie of Filter about tobacco harm reduction prospects in Finland, where
national elections are approaching.
Hello Will. What have you recently published about Finland and what is the big picture?
Hi Joana. This week we ran an article in which Kieran Sidu interviewed Finnish advocate Jari
Ollika. He's the chair and co-founder of Vapers Finland, an association funded entirely by
membership fees. And he painted a picture of a country that has been left behind compared
with its neighbours. Sweden, above all, has benefited from mass switching to snus and
recently declared it has reached smoke-free status of under 5% smoking prevalence. Snus
use there outstripped cigarette smoking back in the 90s and Swedish men in particular who
have adopted snus at the highest rates have long had unusually low rates of lung cancer.
When it comes to vaping, as Kieran put it, Finland's laws are about as strict as they
can be short of actually banning it. These include bans on all non-tobacco flavours,
on advertising and on online or cross-border sales. Meanwhile, Finland has a high adult
smoking rate of nearly 20% and suffers over 5,000 smoking-related deaths each year.
What are the reasons for the country's restrictions on THR products?
For snus, it dates from the 90s when Finland joined the EU and adopted the Confederation's
snus ban, a ban from which Sweden, also an EU member, obtained an exemption. With vaping,
Jari explained, it's just seen as being part of big tobacco businesses. Vapes are not considered
as aids to quit smoking. One factor here is the country's booming NRT market. NRT options
are widely sold in general shops, and Jari described it as definitely the most popular
cessation tool available, even if evidence shows it to be less effective than vapes.
There have been pharmaceutical companies involved in the campaign for a smoke-free Finland,
Jari added, and they don't like vapes.
To what extent are people in Finland assessing THR options other than NRT?
Perhaps more than you might think, even though full potential is clearly not being realised.
There are an estimated 38,000 people who vape in the country, albeit compared with about
900,000 who smoke. And despite the snus ban, Jari said, it is now being used more than
ever. People can at least bring in personal use quantities from abroad. Yet overall, the
government, he said, is stuck in this quit-or-die method when it comes to smoking. There is
no belief in harm reduction. The choice Finland wants to give people who wish to stop smoking
is NRT or cold turkey.
And are there any prospects for change?
There could be, according to Jari. In April's parliamentary elections, he said, some parties
are pushing to legalise snus, mainly to get tax money. So I see this as a good chance
to influence politicians to lift restrictions from vaping as well. Mainly, he continued,
allowing online sales would benefit most of the vapers, especially those who are living
in areas where there are no vaping stores.
Thank you Will. That's all for today. Don't forget to book your place at GFN23 to join
in the THI discussion yourself. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.
Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.