Finland to ban smoking: 2

Still, the Finland move has engendered little response. You would have thought that anti-smoking groups would have been falling over themselves to endorse this move. You would have expected another crazy John Banzhaf press release by now. (For the BBC article see here.)

I am interested in seeing the results of trying something like this. I also suspect that though the numbers of smokers will appear to drop, the main result will most likely be a strong black market and a new criminal class. For a great insight on this from someone who has seen how effective prohibition has been in an even less popular substance, watch this from Ethan Nadelmann.

I don’t really need to add much more to that but there are other issues as well.

The fact is that these days no country can really close its borders, and tobacco use tends to drift from legal regions into those that aren’t, as witness the bleeding of snus use from Sweden into surrounding snus banning areas. And part of that snus drift is due to people realizing it is a much safer way of using nicotine. Of note in this article is the following regarding lower risk products:

“One of the discussion points raised by the Finnish government is also to ban any new tobacco products from entering the market in the future,” she says.
“Say one day you have a product that is less harmful – that product would then not be made available to adult consumers in Finland.”

This shows that the move is not health based but morally driven. Not only will they ban tobacco products simply on the basis of being tobacco but they are either ignorant of the fact or willfully denying that those products already exist. If they did care about the health, they would open the market to safer forms of nicotine. As you can see in this video below which accompanied the BBC report, even the journalist frames this as a war between the country and the corporations; even he does not see that the forgotten part of this equation is the user.

-PLB

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Comments

  • Courtney E. Heffernan  On January 19, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I agree that this will initiate an insurgence of a new “criminal class” should Finland truly manage to outlaw tobacco products within the next 30 years. Of interest is that the laws they are proposing are already about 15-20 years behind the times here in Canada. We’ve already enacted the steps that they are thinking of implementing within the next year (starting about 20 years ago when we eliminated public vending machines), and yet smoking rates have not dropped below about 20% here. We’ll see what they manage, but it seems like more of a pronouncement of something they expect a reaction from than proposing prohibiting tobacco products altogether.

  • Kate  On January 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    It will be interesting to see what happens with smokers who can’t get their fix. There might be all sorts of unintended consequences including mental health problems. In a few years time studies of productivity and health service use will give a fuller picture.

    I’m sad that effective and attractive alternatives aren’t more widely available and that some people think the best way to change habits is by force and removal of choice.

  • M. Cooper  On January 21, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Finland is a small country with little or no claim to fame. In addition to having one of the highest rates of birth defects in the world the Finns are among the most obese, drunken and violent people in Europe. High incidences of obesity, alcohol related and domestic violence are problems that really should take priority over trying to make Finland smoke free.

    • Courtney E. Heffernan  On January 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      Finland has a rate of birth defects of about 103/10,000. Less than half that of the state of Georgia. Many birth defects counted include congenital heart defects, which can be attributed to maternal smoking. So, banning smoking could have an small impact there. As far as being the most obese, drunken and violent people in Europe, I would argue that those characteristics are likely to transcend national borders. In any event, I would grant that banning smoking is a pretty lame priority. Not too sure about the rest.

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