Tata, tobacco! Denmark aims for 1st smoke-free generation by 2030

© Jonathan Alcorn
Smoking bans in restaurants and bars have become commonplace in many countries, but Denmark isn’t stopping there. The Danish government has announced plans to create the “first smoke-free generation” by 2030, as part of a $333 million initiative.

The ambitious plan detailed in a presentation by health minister Sophie Løhde at Rigshospitalet hospital on Wednesday includes putting new restrictions on smoking at educational institutions and “partnerships with the business community” aimed at getting stores to stop selling tobacco to minors.

“Far too many children and youth take up smoking. We need to do something about that. And if we can reach our goal of having none of the children who are born today smoking in 2030, we will have gone very far in terms of preventing new cancer cases,” Løhde said, as quoted by The Local.

She added that the plan would “send a clear signal that children and smoking don’t go together.”

The plan is part of the Danish government’s Cancer Pack IV (Kræftplan IV) plan aimed at combating cancer throughout the country – at a cost of 2.2 billion kroner ($333.6 million).

“The government puts a high priority on the fight against cancer and therefore we want to inject a historically large amount of money into the area. With Cancer Pack IV we will ensure that more people survive cancer and that they can live a good life when they complete treatment,” Løhde said.

Denmark’s 50.9 percent survival rate for cancer patients is near the bottom amongst Western European nations, and far below the level of its neighbors Sweden (64.7%), Finland (61.4%), Iceland (61.2%), and Norway (58.6%).

According to Løhde An, the goal of Cancer Pack IV is to bring Denmark’s cancer survival rates up to “match the other Nordic countries.”

The plan also includes a “patient-first” strategy that emphasizes individual decisions about treatment options.

“Cancer treatment should be based on the individual patient’s needs and life situation. Patient involvement is already an integral part of the health care system, but we should turn to the patients themselves even more for advice, listen more to them and be better and considering their experiences,” Løhde said.

Cancer Pack IV has been praised by the Danish Cancer Society (Kræftens Bekæmpelse), which said the initiative will “hit the nail on the head.”

“There are a lot of good things to say about Cancer Pack IV, but the thing I am most pleased with is the ambition to make future generations smoke-free,” the society’s chairwoman, Dorthe Crüger, said in a press release. “No other initiative could save us from more instances of cancer than if we succeed with that.”

However, the Danish Health Authority has reportedly recommended going even further and proposed additional measures including increasing tobacco levies, mandating plain-label packaging for cigarettes, and forcing stores to place tobacco products out of plain view, the Politiken newspaper reported in June.

The Danish government isn’t alone in aiming to stop smoking in Denmark, no matter what the cost. TrygFonden, an anti-smoking foundation, has suggested offering financial rewards to those who kick the habit, and the Danish Cancer Society has voiced support for the idea.