Living dangerously

A prestigious block of apartments in Malmö is to become the first in the country to ban smoking, not just in the communal areas but also in the apartments themselves.

Monday’s Sydsvenskan reported that MKB, the owners of the so-called ‘Sjöbergska Palace’, a 19th century building in the centre of the city, will require new tenants to sign a contract agreeing not to smoke. Existing tenants will be asked to sign an amendment to their current contracts.

“The main reason is that the building is old and not very well-sealed. Smoke spreads between the apartments and now we want to put a stop to that,” said Bernt Waldemarsson from MKB’s legal department.

“We hope that tenants will understand that we want to create a better environment,” he continued. “But if this doesn’t solve the problem we’re prepared to go to court to establish the policy.”

The new rules will be introduced in the middle of August, but Waldemarsson denied that there were plans to roll out the policy to other MKB blocks in Malmö.

“This only concerns the Sjöbergska Palace,” he told Sydsvenskan. “We don’t want to come across as some sort of guardians but all the research shows that passive smoking affects many people.”

Waldemarsson added that he believes it won’t be long before a private resident sues a landlord for the effects of passive smoking in similar older buildings. But judging by the baffled reaction of the well-to-do residents of the Sjöbergska Palace, the company’s action could just be a smokescreen.

“We’ve never been bothered by smoke,” said Gabrielle Gauthier-Hernberg, who has lived in the building for five years with her husband. “And such a contract is fine by us – neither I nor my husband smoke.”

“It’s news to me,” said another.

In health-conscious Sweden, citizens will soon be worrying about a lot more than passive smoking, according to Monday’s Svenska Dagbladet. While smokers may have got used to ignoring the proclamation that “SMOKING KILLS” every time they buy a packet of cigarettes, consumers are about to be bombarded with a series of health warnings that will turn Sweden into a land of paranoid wrecks.

The government is considering a demand from the Christian Democrats to label all bottles of wine and spirits with warnings and by the end of the year all vouchers from the bookmakers Svenska Spel and ATG will carry warnings and helpline numbers for addicted gamblers.

If that makes you want to do nothing but stay at home and watch TV, don’t be surprised to see messages flashing up between programmes informing you that watching too much television is bad for you. A government working group is considering how best to introduce such a message, presumably so as not to coincide with the planned warnings that will soon be carried on all alcohol ads.

And Hälsomålet, Stockholm district council’s nutritional agency, has proposed that as an extension of the keyhole mark for healthy foods, a new mark should be introduced for fatty foods: a skull and crossbones.

But Marianne Åbyhammar, the deputy consumer ombudsman, reckons that despite the good intentions, this has all gone too far.

“There is a risk of overdoing it,” she said. “It’s becoming much harder for consumers to get the right information.”

Indeed, misinformation is at the centre of a new ad campaign by ‘A smokefree generation’, an anti-smoking charity.

The ads declare that cigarette filters contain mouse droppings, boys who smoke have smaller penises and the tobacco industry supports the dictatorship in North Korea. All of which is untrue, in case you were wondering.

Ann-Therese Enarsson told Tuesday’s SvD that this was a way of grabbing people’s attention: “We want to show how the tobacco industry has always lied about everything from the ingredients to the harmful effects and the complete denial that the primary target group is young people.”

What’s wrong with ‘Smoking Kills’?