Danish health agency plans for a smoke-free Denmark

The Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen) plans to recommend a full-frontal assault on smoking, an internal document reveals.

The authority has assembled an internal document that was obtained by Politiken newspaper that lays out a national strategy to phase out smoking. Among the proposals are increased tobacco levies, plain-label packaging for cigarettes and forcing stores to place tobacco products out of plain view. 
The agency will also call for setting a national goal for completely phasing out smoking. The recommendations are due to be formally presented to the government early in July. They will be incorporated into a new national cancer strategy, dubbed Cancer Pack 4 (Kræftplan 4).
The head of The Danish Cancer Society (Kræftens Bekæmpelse) called the plans “a breakthrough”.
“This is a clear acknowledgement of the fact that tobacco is the most serious preventable health problem in Denmark,” Leif Vestergaard Pedersen told Politiken. 
Professor Knud Juel from the National Institute of Public Health (Statens Institut For Folkesundhed) said that an increase in tobacco prices would be an effective tool in cutting down smoking rates. 
“Especially for the young, who don’t have as much disposable income and for whom it would make a major difference whether a pack of cigarettes costs 40 or 100 kroner,” Juel told news agency Ritzau. 
According to the Danish Health Authority, some 14,000 Danes die of smoking-related illnesses each year and tobacco is the leading lifestyle factor in both the number of annual deaths and the number of new cancer cases. 
Health Minister Sophie Løhde told Politiken that she would not comment on the anti-smoking strategy until it is formally released but said she “looks forward to receiving the Danish Health Authority’s professional proposal”. 
Denmark’s northern neighbour Norway recently announced that all branding will be removed from cigarette and snus packets in 2017. The Norwegian Medical Association has also proposed banning the sale of tobacco products to everyone born after 2000 as a first step towards achieving a “tobacco-free generation”, a plan backed by a majority of Norwegians

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Danish government to increase price of cigarettes

Denmark’s government says it should be more expensive to buy cigarettes in the Scandinavian country and has proposed raising the price of a packet to 50 kroner (6.70 euros).

Danish government to increase price of cigarettes
File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

The price hike from the current 40 kroner will take place in two stages, with a 5 krone increase in both 2020 and 2021, according to Danish media reports.

Several parties in the country’s parliament have expressed their desire to raise cigarette prices, but social and health minister Magnus Heunicke said he was concerned about the social impact of a steep increase.

“We can’t have different prices in Denmark. For young people, that is a lot of money, so we think this is the right level,” the minister said to the Danmark media.

The price raise is part of a wider range of proposals to be presented by the government aimed at reducing the number of young people who smoke. Other elements include neutral packaging and a ban on displaying cigarettes in stores.

Heunicke also called for stricter application of the law preventing cigarette sales to under 18s and harsher fines for illegal sales.

Opposition health spokesperson Sophie Løhde of the Liberal party said the increase proposed by the Social Democrat government did not go far enough.

“I’m very disappointed. The health minister seems to think he’s the tax minister and that revenues [from taxing tobacco sales, ed.] are more important than the goal of making young people and children smoke-free,” Løhde said.

The Liberals recently called for a price increase to 60 kroner per packet of cigarettes.

Løhde also said there may be enough support amongst other parties for a parliamentary majority to get behind a higher price increase, even without government support.

READ ALSO: A packet of cigarettes could soon cost 50 percent more in Denmark