Nicotine, which is contained in tobacco, is considered one of the most addictive substances on Earth and can lead to smoking becoming a lifelong addiction for many. It is estimated that as many as two-thirds of people who ever try a cigarette will become addicted. Recently, the perception of smoking has moved away from something that was once seen as ‘cool’ and the health risks of smoking are well-documented and fairly common knowledge among the European population. Bulgaria, France, and Turkey had among the highest rates of daily smokers in Europe, with under a quarter of their adult populations doing so. On the other hand, the Nordic countries had the lowest rates of smokers, at around and under 10 percent. Across Europe, smoking is generally more common among men than women.
The rise of vaping
The rise in the use of e-cigarettes, also known as vapes, has caused concerns among health experts and governments in the EU. In particular, the uptake of vaping among teenagers has caused the most worry. Initially, e-cigarettes were marketed as an aid for smokers who wished to quit, allowing the user to consume nicotine through a vapor rather than much more harmful smoke which produces tar and carbon monoxide, both hazardous substances. However, calls are being made to introduce regulations to make vapes less appealing to young people. It has been argued that vapes are appealing to teenagers because of their bright colors and confectionary-like flavors. Most apparent is the number of underage teenagers who are vaping but have no prior experience smoking cigarettes. As of November 2023, five EU countries had implemented a ban on flavored vapes – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, and Lithuania.
Differing smoking laws across Europe
Ireland and the United Kingdom are regarded as having the strongest laws and policies against smoking in Europe. According to the tobacco control scale index, the two countries scored well in areas such as pricing, bans on smoking in public places, bans on advertising, and health warnings when purchasing tobacco. All EU member states as well as the UK ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The overarching aim of the FCTC is to curb smoking through pricing and non-pricing (regulation, health warnings, protection, etc.) measures. However, the actual implementation of the tobacco control policies conveyed in the framework is presently patchy across the continent.
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