Friday, 4 December 2015

Smoking prevalence in Norway dropping faster than ever

Yesterday I came across this blog post, which apparently an answer to someone asking for data on what happened to smoking trends in Norway when Snus became widely available in 2000. The post links to the Norwegian statistical institute (SSB) and their report on smoking habits, released in February this year.

Smoking habits in Norway, trendlines added by Atakan Befrits
As you can see prevalence has been dropping from 1973, but started dropping faster around 2000, and then even faster around 2009.

I haven't found any good statistics on vaping, I'm not sure they even exist yet, so I don't think we can be sure that vaping can be attributed the increased decline from 2009, but I wouldn't be surprised. But to be fair, from these data we can't really say for sure. What the data does show however, is that vaping has not led to an increase, or a graph that flattens out, like we would have seen if the gateway theory was valid.

I've never used Snus (for some reason SSB calls it snuff, which I believe quite a few will associate with something else), but I can't really remember that Snus was not available here in Norway. So to be honest I'm not sure why Befrits says it became widely available in 2000, and I couldn't find data from before 2008 on the SSB web-page. However, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health have some more data in their Public Health Report from 2014 (in Norwegian):

Daily smoking and use of snus 16-25 years old, 1985-2013. Shows "Men, daily smoking", "Women daily smoking", "Men, daily use of snus" and "Women, daily use of snus", in that order on the top.
Same as the above graph, but for people aged 16-74.
As you can see, the use of Snus, especially among young people, really started increasing around 2000. At the same time, again especially among young people, smoking prevalence starts to drop dramatically. This strongly indicates that Snus, which like e-cigarettes is a much lower risk product, is replacing smoking. Also notice that from around 2008-2009 the Snus graph, especially among men, is still increasing but not quite as fast as between 2000 and 2007. Still, from the first graph (and Befrits trendline) we see that smoking prevalence is dropping even faster from 2009. This makes it even more reasonable to believe that vaping has played a part here, but again, a lot of other factors, like anti smoking campaigns, needs to be taken into consideration here. Looking forward to seeing the next report from SSB that is to be published in January 2016. Hopefully they might have some numbers on vaping as well.

It's also interesting to see that prevalence is dropping the most among young people:

Personally I believe this shows that people are very aware of the dangers of smoking, and it seems also that they are aware that Snus is better for your health. I know a lot of former smokers that have used Snus as an aid to quit smoking. In other words, most people seems to understand, and use harm reducing products.

As I said it's a bit difficult to see how vaping and e-cigarettes have contributed to the decline in smoking prevalence here in Norway, as the data on vaping is quite limited. Most people (95%) have heard of e-cigarettes and 15% have tried them according to SSB. E-cigarettes were included in the yearly survey that SSB does on smoking from 2013. The Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIRUS) released a report on e-cigarettes earlier this year with some more numbers estimating around 50.000 weekly users in Norway and around 500.000 have tried e-cigarettes. Their numbers also shows that e-cigarettes are mainly used by smokers, to quit or reduce smoking.

It's good to see that we're moving in the right direction, and even if it's not surprising, it's great to have these numbers to show anyone claiming that vaping will lead to more smoking. On the SSB web-page you can even get more numbers and generate your own graphs. Looking forward to seeing the next report from SSB released in January next year to see how the graphs develop. And it might be even more interesting to see how the TPD will affect this when another year has passed... if we're not able to stop it that is. Not all hope is lost yet... on the 12th of December we hit the streets to convince our politicians that the TPD is not the way to keep those numbers going down as fast as possible.

Vapour UK


  1. Dear VapingGiraffe and all THR users in Norway,
    Accept my apologies for lousy use of wording. Indeed snus has always been available also in Norway. Snus held a marginal share of tobacco in Norway 1900-2000 and was below 5% in 1999, effectively for a century. In 2000 snus became widely accepted, not available, and has resulted in a positively MASSIVE shift. This was the message and I apologize again for any confusion as a result of my careless wording. Have an excellent sunday Norway!

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