Number of smokers in Denmark up for first time in 20 years

A significant increase in smokers in Denmark has been recorded for the first time in two decades.

Number of smokers in Denmark up for first time in 20 years
File photo: Linda Kastrup/Ritzau Scanpix

The figures, which come from an annual survey of smoking habits in Denmark amongst 5,017 people, show an increase of 21.1 percent of the population who regularly lit up in 2016 to 23.1 percent last year.

That corresponds to an increase of 9.5 percent over two years.

The survey was conducted by the Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen) and three other organisations who will publish the results on Thursday, Politiken reports.

Sporadic, small increases in smoking statistics have in recent decades broken up an overall trend towards lower numbers, but statistics now show a tangible increase, the report concludes.

Niels Them Kjær, a project manager with charity the Danish Cancer Society (Kræftens Bekæmpelse), called the findings of the report a “catastrophe”.

“It is terrible that we will, also in the future, see many Danish people die of cancer,” Kjær told Ritzau.

Almost 5,000 people die annually in Denmark due to smoking-related cancer, Kjær said.

Nordic neighbours Sweden, Norway and Finland have not shown statistical increases in numbers of smokers as seen in Denmark.

Kjær said higher prices and stricter marketing regulation, as well as increasing the number of no-smoking areas, were key in breaking the upward curve on smoking in Denmark.

“We can see that this is what works for our neighbours,” he said.

Minister of Health Ellen Trane Nørby said to Politiken that discussion of smoking should not be simplified to talking about the cost of a packet of cigarettes.

“An overall cultural change in society is needed to push this curve downwards,” Nørby said.

Opposition party the Social Democrats said that it was “not a stranger” to considering price increases on tobacco products. The right-wing Danish People’s Party rejected a drastic price increase but said it would consider a small increase that would not disproportionately affect low-earning smokers.

READ ALSO: Nearly half of Danes want smoking breaks to go unpaid: report


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