A new study from Iceland’s Directorate of Health shows that smoking in Iceland is on the decline, with evidence that the use of e-cigarettes may be contributing to a decrease in the consumption of traditional cigarettes, RÚV reports. Although these are viewed as positive trends, some in the medical community fear that parliament’s proposal for new restrictions on e-cigarettes could negatively impact the trend away from traditional tobacco use.
Last year, 9% of Icelanders reported smoking on a daily basis, a drop of five percentage points in three years, according to figures published in the Directorate of Health’s newsletter. Daily use of e-cigarettes has increased, but only by 1% since 2016, with 4% of people last year reporting that they smoke e-cigarettes, or vape, every day.
Two out of every five people who use e-cigarettes also smoke regular cigarettes, but this number is on the decline. A little under half of those who vape have stopped smoking regular cigarettes, which is 10% more than in 2016. “There’s no other way to interpret these figures than that increasingly, people are quitting smoking and starting to vape,” said Dr. Guðmundur Karl Snæbjörnsson.
The study in the Directorate of Health’s newsletter pointed out that the percentage of people who never smoked traditional cigarettes but are now vaping has increased to 12%, up from 7% in 2016. Guðmundur said that the way these figures have been presented is, however, misleading. “The original percentage is 4% and if we’re talking about 12% of 4%, which is the figure from 2017, that means the figure is actually .4% and it’s very misleading the way it’s presented in their report,” he argued.
Iceland’s parliament is currently reviewing a new bill presented by the Minister of Health which would introduce new restrictions on the consumption, sales, and marketing of e-cigarettes. Guðmundur argues that no research has shown the use of e-cigarettes to be harmful and says that this bill may actually have an adverse effect on continuing to reduce the number of Icelanders using traditional cigarettes. “There are so many limitations, and so many more than there ever have been on the cigarettes that we know are killing over half of the people who use them in the authorized way.”
Note: the table above shows the current percentage of Icelanders who have never smoked, measured by age and gender (men, blue; women, red).