Finnish Girls Use Snus More Than Before, Decline in Alcohol Consumption Has Stopped
The use of tobacco products among Finnish adolescents has long been declining. Over the past two years, however, the decreasing trend seems to have stopped. Snus use is on the rise, even among girls. The decline in alcohol consumption among Finnish young people has also stopped.
These are among the findings of the 2019 Adolescent Health and Lifestyle Survey. Conducted every two years, the survey follows the health behaviors of 12- to 18-year-old Finns.
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Among 16- to 18-year-old Finns, 13 percent use tobacco products daily, while the corresponding percentage among 14-year-olds is only about two percent. Ten years earlier, the corresponding figures were 25 percent and eight percent, and 32 percent and 14 percent at the beginning of the millennium.
From the point of view of public health, the long-running positive trend seems to have stalled over the past two years. The fact that more and more young people—about six percent of girls and 15 percent of boys aged 16 to 18—have begun to use snus daily or occasionally in the 2010s raises concerns.
In spite of this, the goal of making Finland tobacco-free by 2030 is still achievable. About a third of 14- to 18-year-olds and half of the 12-year-olds believe in the objective set in the Finnish Tobacco Act to end the use of tobacco and other nicotine products in Finland by the year 2030. This is more than in the previous Adolescent Health and Lifestyle Survey in 2017.
Fewer and fewer people are exposed to tobacco smoke in Finland. An increasing number of families are smoke-free: parents smoke less than before. In addition, Finns rarely smoke at home or in the car. These are all factors that support the transition to a smoke-free society.
E-cigarettes not so popular
According to the survey, only about two percent of 16 to 18-year-olds used electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) on a weekly basis or more frequently and only very few 14-year-olds used them. About half of boys and a third of girls aged 16 to 18 had tried e-cigarettes. Among young people, the reasons for trying e-cigarettes often come from a desire to try out something new or their friends’ use of e-cigarettes.
Fewer than one in ten reported having used e-cigarettes to help quit smoking. The use of e-cigarettes among young people has not increased since they entered the market in the early 2010s.
Non-drinking among young people increased and alcohol use and binge drinking decreased throughout the 2000s. During the past two years, however, this positive trend seems to have stalled. An exception to this is binge drinking among 18-year-old boys, which has continued to decrease.
Alko stores and other shops that sell alcoholic beverages have succeeded well in ensuring that the legal age limits for buying alcohol are observed. Minors cannot buy alcoholic beverages from Alko, and very few manage to do so from other shops. Individual retail outlets may be less effective in controlling sales to minors.
Snus is banned in Finland
Sales of snus have been banned in all member states of the European Union, except in Sweden.
In Finland, the ban has been in effect since 1995.
Still, adults are allowed to import snus to Finland 1,000 grams per day, without worrying to be caught by the black Labrador of the Finnish Customs. In a year one is allowed to import snus 365 kilos per person.
One of the most popular places to buy snus is on the cruise ferries to Sweden. When the boat crosses the territorial waters of Sweden, the shops open the covers on the shelves, which are dotted with golden cans.
One should be aware though that snus can be imported only for personal use. Should one sell a can, give it as a gift or should one offer a snus bag to a friend, the person would have committed a crime.
It’s also punishable by law to accept snus. The maximum sentence is prison time for one year and six months.
But how are the Finnish kids able to place snus in their upper lips then?
Through social media.
Some parents like to buy it, too.
Picture on the cover by Heather Sperling/Flickr