• April 23, 2024

Finland Backs NRT Over Harm Reduction

 Finland Backs NRT Over Harm Reduction

Image: New Africa | Adobe Stock

Image: New Africa | Adobe Stock

Finland has strict laws on vaping and a ban on snus despite about 900,000 citizens smoking combustible cigarettes, reports Filter, noting that the country does, however, have a booming nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) market.

Finland has banned vaping in all places where smoking is banned, banned flavors other than tobacco, implemented a total advertising ban and made online and cross-border sales illegal. Snus is also banned—Sweden is the only European Union member that has an exemption to the snus ban. Despite this, an estimated 38,000 people use nicotine vapes in the country.

Vaping is considered less hazardous than smoking combustible cigarettes, but Finland has put focus on NRT like gums and patches rather than tobacco harm reduction products like vapes. NRT products can be easily purchased without prescriptions throughout the country.

“NRT is definitely the most popular cessation tool available,” said Jari Ollikka, chair and cofounder of Vapers Finland ry, an association created by and for people who vape, in an interview with Filter. “There was a time when it was only sold in pharmacies, but since 2006, NRT started to be sold in general stores.

“There was a target of a ‘smoke-free Finland’ by 2040. But then the goalpost changed: The target is now 2030. At the same time, Finland changed from wanting to be smoke-free to smoke-free and nicotine-free.

“There have been pharmaceutical companies involved in the campaign for a smoke-free Finland, and they don’t like vapes. And it is these that have benefited from pushing NRT. Also, pharmacies want to get their share back from NRT sales because they are lobbying to end general sales of NRT and allow NRT sales only in pharmacies,” he said.

Ollikka said that the government now admits that vaping is less harmful than smoking, “but there’s no push to get people to use vapes as a way to quit smoking. Finland 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! Vaping is seen as just being part of Big Tobacco businesses. Vapes are not considered as aids to quit smoking.”

Finland has parliamentary elections upcoming in April. Ollikka said some parties are pushing to legalize snus. “So,” he said, “I see this as a good chance to influence politicians to lift restrictions from vaping as well.”