Denmark considers permanent ban on cigarette sales for people born after 2010

Denmark’s government is considering a historic law change which could see the sale of cigarettes permanently banned in the Nordic country for people born after 2010.

Denmark could enact a preemptive, permanent ban on cigarette sales for people born after 2010. Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

The government is considering a law change which would prevent anyone currently aged 12 or under from ever buying cigarettes in Denmark.

People under 18 are not legally allowed to purchase cigarettes under current Danish laws, so although the ban would not have an effect for six years, it would prevent people born after 2010 from ever buying cigarettes, political media Altinget reports.

The law change could be included in an upcoming political reform package for the health sector. The government is at an advanced stage of considerations to include the proposal in its reforms, the media writes.

“This would put Denmark in a supreme first place in tobacco prevention globally. Smoking is so dangerous that it is necessary for politicians to ensure a future in which no one smokes,” Morten Grønbæk, director of the National Institute of Public Health, told Altinget.

Any proposal to implement the future ban would need parliamentary backing for a bill tabled by the minority government.

“Smoking is one of the biggest causes of inequality in society. So this would be a good lever,” Peder Hvelplund, health spokesperson with the left wing party Red Green Alliance, told newspaper BT.

“We know that the tobacco industry conducts overly aggressive campaigns aimed at young people, where they are tempted with a range of different nicotine products that lead, in the end, to smoking. This would be an attempt to put the brakes on that completely,” he said.

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Denmark to test 10 kindergartens and playgrounds for ‘forever chemical’ PFAS

Ten kindergartens and public playgrounds in the South Denmark region are to be tested for the pollutant chemical PFAS.

Denmark to test 10 kindergartens and playgrounds for ‘forever chemical’ PFAS

Five kindergartens and public playgrounds on Funen and five kindergartens and public playgrounds in Southern Jutland are to be tested for presence of the chemical, the South Denmark regional health authority said in a statement on Thursday.

The locations are to be tested because the authority does not know with certainty that they are not contaminated with PFAS, the health authority said.

“I want to stress that the Region does not expect in advance that PFAS chemicals will be found in the ground in amounts that can constitute a risk to children,” Poul Erik Jensen, head of the Region’s environment board, said in the statement.

“But a review of a number of different kindergartens, creches and playgrounds has identified 10 locations in the region where the risk of PFAS pollution cannot be dismissed,” he said.

“That should naturally be looked into so we are on the safe side,” he said.

The kindergartens and playgrounds to be tested are located in the municipalities of Assens, Faaborg-Midtfyn, Middelfart, Svendborg, Sønderborg, Varde, Fredericia and Vejle.

Local authorities have been advised of the decision to test the areas and issued advice related to necessary precautions.

Despite the decision to conduct the tests, the South Denmark Region does not consider any PFAS presence that might be detected to constitute an acute risk to children. This means the areas do not need to be closed off, Jensen said.

The tests will primarily take place during the upcoming Easter holidays to minimise disruption, he also said.

“Our experts’ assessment is that PFAS does not constitute a risk for children’s play with the soil. The playgrounds can therefore be used as they have been up to now until we have received the results of the investigations,” he said.

A common factor for each of the locations is that they are close to a former factory or waste disposal site. For this reason, they have already been tested for pollution, but PFAS testing did not form part of the standard testing at the time.

The results of the tests are expected to be available in May.

What are PFAS? 

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a large group of synthetic chemicals used in various products since the early 1950s. Their past uses include foam in fire extinguishers, food packaging and in textiles, carpets and paints. Also known as ‘forever chemicals’, they persist in water and soil and can cause harm to human health. 

Due to their chemical properties, they take a long time to break down and can be found in very low concentrations in blood samples from populations all over the world.

They are, however, unwanted in the environment because they have been found to have concerning links to health complications. Their use in materials which come into contact with foods, like paper and card, has been banned in Denmark since 2020.

PFAS have been linked to a series of health complications and, if ingested in high enough amounts, are suspected of causing liver damage, kidney damage, elevated cholesterol levels, reduced fertility, hormonal disturbances, weaker immune systems, negatively affecting foetal development and being carcinogenic.

READ ALSO: PFAS pollution: What do people living in Denmark need to know?