Welcome to Norway: the only thing we smoke here is salmon

Friday 28 May 2004

ASH Media Briefing: Friday 28th May 2004
”Welcome to Norway. The only thing we smoke here is salmon“. Posters with this message have been issued by the Norwegian Ministry of Health. Next Tuesday (June 1st) sees the start of a complete ban in Norway on smoking in public places, including bars, restaurants and discos.

Norwegian Health Minister Dagfinn Hoeybraaten has stated that: ”this law does not aim to reduce the number of smokers, but aspires to ensure that employees in restaurants and bars have a smoke-free work environment”. In all, the Health Ministry says that between 300 and 500 people die of passive smoking in Norway each year [1]. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health concluded that “Lung cancer was the most frequent cancer among…men…Tobacco smoke is the major risk factor for this disease, but occupational exposures also play an important role. Waiters and tobacco workers had the highest risk of lung cancer.” 

According to official figures, the number of Norwegian adults who smoke has dropped from 29% 2002 to 26% in 2003 – effectively the same prevalence rate as the UK. The sharp reduction in rates from 2002 to 2003 is equivalent to 100,000 smokers kicking the habit. The Norwegian Government has also used price to reduce demand: at more than $7.90 Euros (£5.28) a pack, Norway has some of the most expensive cigarettes in Europe.

Deborah Arnott, Director of Action on Smoking and Health comments:

“We congratulate to the Norwegian Government and Parliament for having the courage to end smoking in public places. Norway has been a leader in tobacco control for thirty years and this is the logical next step. The lives of hundreds of employees will be saved by this move – and many thousands of people who would have continued to smoke may now quit.

The Norwegian move comes after the triumphant success of the Irish smoking ban. It’s time the British Government got its act together and moved to end smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places in this country too.”



Norwegian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs: Department of Tobacco Control – +47 24 16 30 00 Norwegian Trade Union Confederation (LO) – +47 23 06 10 50

Norwegian Cancer Society – +47 22 86 66 00


[1] Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic, ammonia and hydrogen cyanide. The immediate effects of inhaling secondhand smoke include eye irritation, headache, cough, sore throat and nausea. Exposure for just 30 minutes to secondhand smoke has been shown to reduce coronary blood flow. Professor Konrad Jamrozik of Imperial College London has estimated that exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace causes about 700 premature deaths in the UK each year – the total number killed in workplace accidents in 2002/3 was 226.