Hundreds Of Thousands Of Deaths Would Have Been Prevented In Greece

Almost 170,000 deaths could have been prevented in Greece from 2000 to 2019 if our country had followed the example of Sweden in the fight against smoking. That's according to the report Saving Lives Like Sweden signed by leading experts on smoking harm reduction from around the world.

Decades have passed since the start of smoking reduction programs, but 1.3 billion people still smoke. Tobacco kills almost half of its users, 8 million people die every year worldwide from diseases related to smoking – 24,407 in Greece – while more than 200 million years of life are lost in total.

The target

Globally, the goal is to drop smoking prevalence below 5% by 2040. Sweden has already achieved this, 17 years early. Banning smoking, without yes buts, everywhere. In the country, smoking has been banned in bars and restaurants since 2005, and since July 1, 2019, it has also been banned in playgrounds, train stations and outdoor areas of restaurants and bars. But the anti-smoking policy did not stop there. Sweden simultaneously made widely available, accessible (and acceptable) alternatives to smoking, such as e-cigarettes, snus liquid tobacco products (not legal in all countries, as these are also considered harmful to health), mouth tobacco pouches etc., as a result of which the percentage of smokers in the country fell within 15 years from 15% to 5.6%. Today it is almost five times lower than the European average (23%).

According to the report Saving Lives Like Sweden, if the European Union had the same indicators as Sweden from 2000 to 2019, 2.9 million deaths would likely have been prevented.

In Greece, where the authorities have never been able to effectively implement the anti-smoking law, 42% of the population still smoke (46% men and 38% women). Electronic cigarettes have been tried by 17% of the population, but systematic use by 2%, tobacco heating devices by 9%, but systematic use by 2%, while the percentage of those who have tried products for the mouth is zero.

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Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide, disproportionately harming the poorest and most vulnerable populations. 80% of smokers, according to the report, live in low- and middle-income countries. Sweden has the lowest smoking-related mortality and morbidity rates in all of Europe. The incidence of cancer in the country is 41% lower than the other countries of the European Union. Sweden has a 39.6% lower mortality rate for all smoking-related diseases than the rest of the EU, while recording the lowest number of lung cancer-related deaths.

According to the report, which was carried out by the organization Health Diplomats, an international organization that aims to strengthen access to health services, innovation and the use of harm reduction policies and to reduce the negative effects of alcohol, tobacco, food and of drugs, if the E.U. had the same indicators as Sweden from 2000 to 2019, 2.9 million deaths would likely have been prevented. The research, which analyzes data from 12 European countries, shows that most lives would have been saved in the UK (680,000).

In the same direction

In the international debate, between those who support the "cleanest" solutions towards nicotine-free societies and against products that burden even less health, and the realists who advocate the reduction of smoking-related diseases, Sweden has taken a clear position. However, the mood is in the same direction. Everyone – both the Authorities and the citizens – want the same thing, to stop smoking. It has been found that seven out of ten adult smokers want to quit, while three quarters regret having started smoking. Of the 44% who try to quit, only 4-7% succeed. The average number of quit attempts before success is… 30.


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