With Sweden close to becoming smoke-free, Federico Fernández discusses a recent survey of ex-smokers conducted by We Are Innovation.
Chapters:0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak 0:54 - What is We Are Innovation? 2:55 - Sweden switches away from smoking 3:53 - Health key factor for switch to safer nicotine products 5:14 - Listening to ex-smokers 7:40 - Affordability is key! 9:11 - Smoke-free Sweden on horizon 15:34 - We Are Innovation's big hopes 17:32 - Closing remarks
Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV.
Sweden is on its way to becoming the first smoke-free country in Europe. Swedes are turning
to alternative nicotine products which have a significant impact on public health and
the quality of life. Joining us today to discuss why ex-smokers in Sweden are turning to alternative
nicotine products is Federico Fernandez, CEO of WeAreInnovation, which is a network of
more than 30 think tanks based in Latin America and Europe dedicated to promoting progress
through innovation, the adoption of new technologies and human creativity.
Hello Federico, it's good to have you on the program. First, can you tell us briefly
about the WeAreInnovation network who commissioned the survey?
WeAreInnovation is a network of more than 30 think tanks, foundations and NGOs, now
headquartered in the whole of the Americas and in Europe, and we are planning an expansion
also to the Gulf area and the Indo-Pacific area as well for this year. As the name clearly
states, we are a pro-innovation alliance. We believe that innovation gives us the tools
to each and every one of us to, let's say, be active in problem solving and solve the
issues that today affect us and to create a better world. Many people sometimes commit
what I think is a mistake to think that, you know, to link innovation to invention, to
those things that are really very at the top, very, you know, like totally highly
creative to this like eureka moment. But innovation sometimes has to do with recombining certain
things that already exist. And another key factor that innovators do is to bring down
costs of those things that were very much at the margins at the beginning and to democratize,
let's say, the access. That's our view. And that, you know, can be done by everyone, particularly
with the tools that we have today, thanks to internet, thanks to mobile phones, thanks to a
lot of things. It's not that difficult for any of us to, let's say, be innovative. And that's
the approach that we have. We are concerned we are not a pro-harm reduction alliance or a pro-vaping
group, so to speak, even though we respect those very much and we collaborate with those groups
a lot. But we are we are a pro-innovation alliance and our scope are wider than that.
So because of your strategies, you are interested in Sweden and its approach to alternative
nicotine products? What we try to pick are issues because innovation is a very big field. So what
we try to pick are issues that we find both very innovative, but also with a deep and positive
human impact. And that is why we are concerned about innovation in the in the realm of nicotine.
And that is why we are concerned with what's going on in Sweden. It's, let's say, with this
ethos in mind of finding areas in which we see how innovation is transforming very positively
the lives of individuals, of citizens that we started our journey, let's say, in order to
find out what's going on in Sweden exactly and what ex-smokers in Sweden think about that.
And can you tell us more about the key factors persuading Swedish smokers to turn to NIPs?
Well, definitely, yes. Firstly, one thing, and I'm happy to tell you about the poll, but
everybody should go visit weareinnovation.global. They can find the whole study there and see we
probably won't have time. And then they'll see the charts and we'll see the exact percentages
there. But nonetheless, the key factor, and this is not going to be a surprise for you
or everyone who is related to the GFN, this is, let's say, the key point. But it's interesting
when you hear it from the people who walked the walk, so to speak, who walked the path.
It's health. People, it was over 60 percent, I think 63 percent. Overall, the key factor in order
to switch from combustion cigarettes to innovative nicotine products, alternative nicotine products,
is health. That's definitely the key factor. There are other factors that intervene as well,
social issues, finance issues as well, but the key point is health by far.
The study also mentioned how nicotine levels can impact the transition from combustible
cigarettes to safer nicotine alternatives. Why do you think this factor is also so important?
Yeah, I think, well, this is what we asked about several topics that we thought
could be important and we wanted to know the opinion of ex-smokers. And definitely,
nicotine levels is one point that they mentioned. It's important in order to facilitate the switch.
There are other factors as well, such as the presence of the ability to get the product in
the flavor of your choice. Affordability is also a very important factor. And we see, let's say,
all the conjunctions of all these issues. It's important that you make the product, let's say,
acceptable to what we are thinking of a current smoker. Let's say that's the person we have in
mind and that's the person whose life we think these products will transform. And we have to make
the path from smoking cigarettes, from combustion cigarettes to safer products, we have to make it
as easy as possible. And in that regard, let's say these products should be acceptable to current
smokers. And it's important that, let's say, they can find them in nicotine levels that satisfy
them, that don't make them long cigarettes. The same with flavors. Let's say it's a no-brainer that
they should be able to find these products and flavors that make them more attractive than a
combustion cigarette. For instance, I mean, and again, you don't have to be a genius to find this
out. If you're going to have a product only in tobacco flavor, why not to go to the original,
you know, combustion, you know, horrible for your lungs product, but at least it's the original one.
Why to have a copy? This is, again, you don't have to be a genius to realize all this, but it's
important that this comes from the, let's say, these are the words of the people we poll.
And what other factors did the study also point out?
Another factor that is extremely important, these products need to be affordable and for us,
and 61% of the people we surveyed said that it was key in order to facilitate the switch from
combustion cigarettes to alternative nicotine products, that these products are well-priced,
are cheaper than combustion cigarettes. And we think this should, let's say, aim,
and this is part of the Swedish, let's say, model, this should aim to both ensure competitive prices
for these products, and this basically has to do with allowing the market to work.
And the second thing is that taxation of these products should reflect the relative risk,
the relative level, sorry, of risk or safety, however you want to measure it, of the products
compared to combustion cigarettes. It's really a very big mistake when these products are taxed
as if they were combustion cigarettes, when, as you know better than I do, in some cases,
some of these products don't even have tobacco like nicotine pouches or vaping, so
I mean it's adding insult to injury, let's say.
Sweden is close to becoming the first smoke-free country in Europe.
Do you think alternative nicotine products are helping to achieve this goal?
Sweden, as you said, is about, Sweden currently is at 5.6 approximately smoking prevalence,
it's rapidly declining, and it's going to achieve a smoke-free status this year. Smoke-free,
by the way, for someone who doesn't know, means that 5% or less of the population smoke.
This achievement is remarkable. They are going to achieve this goal two years before their own
settings, let's say, they thought this was going to be achieved in 2025, and 17 years
before the European Union, because the goal, the smoke-free goal for the European Union is 2040,
and there are experts and people who are studying the issue who are warning us that
in this goal is going to be, the European Union is going to fail this goal. But
regardless of this, Sweden has achieved what the European Union
claims is going to achieve by 2040, they have achieved it this year. So this is really something,
this is one of the best news of this year, and by far I think this is the best news of this year,
because let's say, we are finding a way to defeat smoking as we know it. And by the way,
we are Innovation, we do not have a prohibitionist view regarding cigarettes, traditional cigarettes,
but we all know that they are not good. I'm not going to buy cigarettes for my children,
for instance. I mean, this is, and there are ways that we can make people not to smoke. I mean,
this is really one of the best news, if not the best news of this year.
How has Sweden managed to achieve this? We see it, Joanna, in the sense, and if you allow me a
metaphor, this is like a good author wine. It's a blend, and it's a blend with the right proportions
of everything. Sweden has implemented, and in some cases very rigorously, the mandates and the
policies that emanate both from the European Union and the World Health Organization. They have also
heavily invested in educational programs for the population to teach the risks and hazards to your
health that smoking entails. But, and this is the missing piece for us, that we, let's say to us,
the Swedish have found the missing piece in order to defeat smoking. And this is why we are concerned
about it and why we're working about this issue, which is allow innovators to do what they do best,
which is improving our lives. And Sweden has allowed innovation in the realm of nicotine.
And this is why we believe this, let's say, the conjunction of these three, of this, let's say,
this triangle, this love triangle, if you allow me, it's what has allowed to defeat smoking as we
know it. In Sweden, I mean, snus is a magnificent Swedish innovation, which is, I mean, now quite old,
but it was a magnificent innovation, you know, 250 years ago. And by the way, it would be a great
innovation almost all over the world, because it's a highly banned product, starting with the rest of
the European Union. Nicotine pouches have also been born in Sweden, and they also have allowed
heated tobacco and vaping. So we think that this was the piece of the puzzle missing to
defeat smoking. And another thing that I want to highlight, and sorry for being so long in
my response, is that innovation has also shown us that it gives us the tools to cater to different
needs. One thing we learned, thanks to our Ipsos poll, is that snus is still the most popular
product in Sweden, but more modern, more innovative alternatives are rapidly growing. And not only that,
but in the case of women, snus is not the preferred product, not at all. Let's say, if snus is still
king in Sweden, nicotine pouches are the queen. Women prefer, women, and you probably know this,
Sweden had the strange case a couple of decades ago that women smoked more than men, which
usually never happens. And this was because snus was not a product that
women tend to favor or wanted to use. Nicotine pouches brought that, let's say,
was that innovation that solved, let's say, the problem for them. So in that regard,
allowing innovation to flourish, to thrive, and to cater to different needs has also been
fundamental in taking into consideration certain gender sensitivities. It has allowed Sweden to
shift away from models that you could, you know, you could call one size fits all, that don't work
and do not respect the needs and the gender specificities that we have to take in mind,
we have to take into consideration when we want to defeat smoking.
And do you think survey results give us any insights into Swedes' views about using
alternative nicotine products? Well, I hope so. That's why we did it.
No, definitely, definitely. It's, like I said, we think, you know, an angular
part of the building that Sweden has built has to do with allowing innovation to be part
of this equation to defeat smoking. And it was extremely important for us to know
what the people who walked the path themselves could tell us about how this journey was,
what facilitated it, what made it more difficult. And in that regard, I think it's extremely
important. And this is, let's say, we see, and I'm not very objective when saying this, but
we believe this survey is a very important asset. And we invite everyone who is interested
in what Sweden has achieved to take a look at it, to use it. It's there. I would say we're
very open source with our material. We only ask for people to have the kindness to just
refer to the original source. But this material is put there for everyone to use it and to try
to, let's say, listen to the voice of people who quit smoking thanks to innovation in nicotine.
So, yes, we really think this gives us great insights into what Swedish people
think about alternative nicotine products.
Thank you, Federico. We are looking forward to seeing you in Warsaw at GFN23.
That's all for today. Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our GFN TV podcast.
And don't forget to register for the Global Forum on Nicotine Conference.
GFN2023 starts on June 21st and runs to the 24th.
Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.