Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Sweden: New Rules on Smoking in Public Places and Sale of Tobacco Enter into Force

(Sept. 25, 2019) On July 1, 2019, the Act on Tobacco and Similar Products, which expands prohibitions on smoking in public places and on the sale of tobacco, entered into force in Sweden. (Lag om tobak och liknande produkter [Act on Tobacco and Similar Products] (SFS 2018:2088); Förordning om tobak och liknande produkter [Regulation on Tobacco and Similar Products] (SFS 2019:233); Proposition [Prop.] 2017/18:156 Ny lag om tobak och liknande produkter; Prop. 2018/19:43 Kompletterande bestämmelser till lagen om tobak och liknande produkter.)

Specifically, the national prohibition on smoking in certain (outdoor) public places was expanded to include

  • outdoor dining areas such as patios,
  • entrance areas to smoke-free public venues,
  • areas that are meant to be used by persons using domestic public transportation (i.e., bus stops, train stations),
  • enclosed spaces to be used for sports activities, and
  • public playgrounds. (6 kap. 2 § Lag om tobak och liknande produkter.)

In practice, this means that smoking is prohibited within 20 meters (66 feet) of any of the places designated above—that is, 20 meters from each outdoor seating area, and 20 meters from bus stations and the like.

In addition, the smoking prohibition was expanded to include electronic cigarettes and refilling containers, herbal products for smoking, and other stimulants whose manner of use resembles smoking but which do not contain tobacco. The new rules also require that the person responsible for the outdoor seating areas post signs that inform customers of the prohibition. Violation of the outdoor smoking ban results in a fine, and is also cause for a restaurant (or other establishment) to remove customers. (1 kap. 2 §, 6 kap. 9 §.)

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has issued a guide that further addresses the scope of the outdoor smoking ban, which includes a discussion of the new ban on tobaccoless water pipes and the requirement that ash trays and other smoking paraphernalia be removed by the person responsible or the municipality from places where smoking no longer is allowed.

Smoke-Free Sweden by 2025

The legislation is part of a general strategy to eliminate smoking in Sweden. The Swedish government, with the support of Parliament, has set a steep goal of making Sweden smoke free by 2025. The term “smoke free” is defined by the government as when less than 5% of the population smokes. At current levels, it is estimated that 10% of Swedes are smokers. (Prop.2018/19:43 Kompletterande bestämmelser till lagen om tobak och liknande produkter at 44, 45.)

In 2002, the Swedish government set other steep goals to be reached by 2014, including

  • a tobacco-free start to life by 2014 (meaning no child should be born to a smoking mother),
  • reducing by half the number of youth younger than 18 who start smoking or use Swedish snus,
  • reducing by half the proportion of smokers among the groups that smoke the most, and
  • freedom from involuntarily being subjected to smoke in one’s immediate surroundings. (Regeringens proposition [prop.] 2002/03:35 Mål för folkhälsan [Goals for Public Health] at 87.

These goals were not met, however. (Prop. 2017/18:156 at 45.)

High Costs of Smoking

According to the government commission tasked with researching the effects of a smoking prohibition, smoking imposes high costs on Swedish society. The annual costs associated with smoking are estimated to be approximately 31.5 billion Swedish krona (SEK) (about US$3.4 billion), of which SEK7.6 billion (about US$816 million) pertain to heart and cardiovascular diseases resulting from smoking. Lung cancer alone was estimated to cost SEK3.6 billion (about US$387 million). Still, the largest cost to society was the loss of production caused by people having to take sick leave from work because of smoking-induced illness. The commission estimated that half of all smokers die because they are smokers and that their life expectancy is reduced by an average of 10 years. (Prop. 2017/18:156 at 45.)

Local Restrictions on Smoking

In addition to the restrictions discussed above, Swedish municipalities have the right to limit where smoking is allowed within public places of the municipality. Also local bans on smoking during working hours are becoming more common, especially for municipality government workers.

Municipality Reactions to the Prohibition

Although much of the response to the expanded prohibitions has been positive, some municipalities have come out against the outdoor ban, questioning how they will be able to offer smokers a way to stub out their cigarettes in an environmentally friendly way, as many of the current places set up for stubbing out cigarettes (special garbage cans with ash trays) are placed too close to an entrance or outdoor seating area to be used for this purpose. For example, in Boras, the municipality is worried that smokers who cannot put out their cigarettes close to the bus station will stub them out on the streets, and those stubs will end up in the stream that cuts through the city center.

Statistics on Smoking in Sweden

EU statistics show that Sweden had the lowest percentage of daily smokers in 2014, the only EU country with less than 10% of the population reporting that they smoked daily. In 2018, 7% of Swedes aged 16 to 84 said that they smoke daily. There was no statistical difference between men and women.