“Smoking has been falling like a rock as we’ve never seen before”
Dr. Gudmundur Karl Snæbjornsson of the Icelandic National Institute of Health hails vaping as a ‘miracle’ and ‘great blessing’ for Icelander’s health, helping to dramatically reduce the number of smokers in Iceland over the last decade. In a new interview with Icelandic online newspaper Visir.is Gudmundur Karl demonstrates the value and significance of vaporizers as a harm reduction tool. “Smoking has been falling like a rock like we’ve never seen before,” Dr. Snæbjornsson told Visir reporters. “The biggest contributing factors have been snuff and vaping which have been wiping smoking out.”
Iceland is a gorgeous island deep in the North Atlantic featuring some of the most awe-inspiring scenery on the planet. It’s a sparsely populated Nordic vista of nearly 350,000 people. In 2014 about 35,000 of them, or 14 percent of the population, self-identified as smokers. By 2017 this figure dropped by almost 40 percent to just 22,000, or only 9 percent of the population. On top of this, sales of cigarettes have collapsed by as much as 50 percent since 2008 thanks in large part to vaping and snuff, also known as smokeless tobacco.
Gudmundur Karl also suggests the use of vaping has increased, although the National Institute of Health is still looking into the data. As of 2017 about 4 percent of the population, or approximately 10,000 people, aged 18 and older claimed to use vaporizers daily, while an additional 4 percent responded that they used vaporizers occasionally. This is up from 2016 figures where 3 percent claimed daily use and another 3 claimed occasional use, or a little under 15,000 people.
The Impact at Home
Presently, Iceland has no clearly defined laws or regulations concerning vaporizers and e-liquid. While the Minister of Health had announced a bill was being drafted last year to extend current tobacco rules to vaping, such as banning their use indoors, another bill was introduced to limit the strength and quantities of e-liquid sold. Both of these bills were opposed by both private industry and the public at large.
Nordic neighbors Norway and Sweden have also been experiencing increases in vaping and snuff usage as their smoking rates rapidly plummet. Norway public health officials have recently passed legislation legalizing vaping, and consumer advocacy groups are pushing new legislation that would effectively ban smokeless tobacco. Data show that less than 1 percent of young Norwegian women and less than 3 percent of men consider themselves daily smokers, down from nearly 30 percent and 29 percent respectively since 2001.
Coverage such as this type of interview is crucial in helping steer the tone and conversation around vaping in a more positive direction. The climate surrounding vaping as a whole has been a lot tenser as of late, as regulators continue to peddle faulty science in an attempt to demonize the vaporizer industry as potentially harmful. There needs to be an even tone of coverage that helps to demonstrate the value of vaporizers as a smoking cessation aid and harm reduction tool. While many in the scientific community recognize the benefit provided by vaporizers, the general tone of coverage has continued to be negative since vaporizers began to gain popularity about a decade ago.
Thankfully reports like this and studies such as the famous 2015 study by Public Health England help provide the other side of the discussion. After all, not only does the evidence has shown that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, but researchers have also concluded that vaping is the single most effective smoking cessation tool we currently have at our disposal. Proper coverage showcases the importance and significance of vaping as a smoking cessation aid and harm reduction tool. We must support an accurate picture of the benefits of vaping in the media if we wish to encourage more smokers to attempt a switch. That’s the best way we can continue to drop the smoking rate across the globe.
Are you impressed by the drastic decline in smoking rates in Iceland and other Nordic countries? Do you agree with the move to ban other forms of smokeless tobacco in Norway? Do you believe the coverage surrounding vaping has been unbalanced? Let us know the answers to any and all of these questions down in the comments below, and feel free to connect with us on social media.