No Tobacco Day: Low smoking rates in the Nordic Countries

Smoking area in Reykjavík, Iceland. . Yadid
Smoking area in Reykjavík, Iceland. . Yadid Levy/

The Nordic countries are low both in terms of smoking habits and tobacco-related mortality – Sweden is the lowest. Today is No Tobacco Day. This year’s theme is “We need food, not tobacco”.

The publication “Smoking Cessation in the Nordic Region” presented the following figures in 2018: The area in the Nordic region with the highest proportion of smokers is Greenland. The Faroe Islands come in second place, followed by Finland, Denmark, Norway, Åland, Iceland, and Sweden.

No tobacco day
Unsplash/Ruben Bagues

“The Nordic countries are low both in terms of smoking habits and tobacco-related mortality”, says Lars Ramström, Principal Investigator at Institute for Tobacco Studies in Sweden.

In the Nordic region the proportion of smokers – both those who smoke occasionally and those who smoke every day – is higher among the 18-24-year-old than the 45-65-year-old (23% vs 19%). The picture is reversed when it comes to daily smoking, as there are more daily smokers in the older age group that in the younger age group (16% vs 13%).

Swedish and Danish women smoke more

No Tobacco dAY
Unsplash/Nafis Al Sadnan

Sweden and Denmark are alone in having a higher percentage of smokers among women than men, but the reason is different, Ramström points out. In Sweden, as early as the 1960s, men began to largely switch from cigarettes to snus, a development that among women has only come about in recent years. In Denmark, women have traditionally smoked a lot, especially cigars. In Norway, the use of Swedish snus has gained momentum in recent decades. Snuff has long been common in Finland, and it continues despite the fact that Finland is now covered by the EU’s snuff ban.

No tobacco day

Recent statistics in the Nordics

Norway: Around 7 per cent of the population in Norway between the ages of 16 and 74 smoked daily in 2022. In total, this corresponds to approximately 320,000 people. In addition, around 7 percent say that they smoke occasionally. There are the most people who smoke daily among those over 45, the fewest among the youngest.

Finland: About 12 percent of Finns aged 20–64 smoked daily in 2020, 14 percent of men and 11 percent of women. Smoking has decreased in all age groups, especially among men: for example, in the 1980s, about one in three men smoked daily, one in five women.

Smokers in Nuuk, Greenland. Mads Schmidt Rasmussen /
Smokers in Nuuk, Greenland. Mads Schmidt Rasmussen /

Denmark: Figures for 2022 shows that 23% of Danes use at least one nicotine product and that there is no longer a decrease in the proportion of smokers. At the same time, there is an increase in the proportion using smokeless nicotine products and e-cigarettes. Among young people aged 15-29 years, there is an increase in the use of all nicotine products. The survey also shows that 75% of daily smokers want to quit smoking.

Man smoking in Norway
Man smoking in Norway. Mads Schmidt Rasmussen /

Sweden: The percentage who smoke daily has decreased in Sweden since 2004. In 2022, six percent stated that they smoke daily. While smoking has decreased continuously in recent years, the proportion of people who snuff daily has increased, not least among women.

Iceland: According to the Icelandic Directorate of Health, 9% of Icelanders smoked cigarettes in 2002 down from 30% in 2000.  6.2% daily and 2.8% irregularly. However, sales of cigarettes decreased by 15% from 2021 to 2022. Unfortunately, at the same time, use of electronic cigarettes and nicotine pads has increased, not least in the age group 18-34.

NO Tobacco day
Unsplash/Rusty Watson

No tobacco day

No tobacco day informs the public on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, what WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations. The Member States of the World Health Organization created World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.