Health minister on cigarettes: don’t scare kids

Close-ups of cancer-ridden throats and blackened lungs are featured on cigarette packs in Canada and some EU countries, and last Friday the European Commission presented the pictures as part of a proposal to make cigarette packs less inviting.

But unlike politicians in Belgium and Ireland who welcomed the proposition, Sweden’s health minister, Morgan Johansson, stubbed it out straight away.

“I’m sceptical about the pictures,” said Morgan Johansson via a spokesperson to Svenska Dagbladet and quoted in several of Sweden’s dailies. “I think the warning texts we have today are enough.”

In Tuesday’s Expressen the health minister revealed that his priority was to protect children. Unfortunately it’s not lung cancer and emphysema that he wants to protect them from – it’s bad dreams.

“Children shouldn’t have nightmares when they see their parents’ cigarette packets,” he said.

As far as doctor Hans Gilljam, head of the Centre for the prevention of tobacco use, is concerned, that’s precisely the point of the pictures, which cover half the packet.

“You don’t die from pictures,” he said to Aftonbladet. “You die from cigarettes.”

Those other great vices, gambling and drinking, also got a bit of attention in the Swedish press this week. From Gothenburg, GT reported that a 17-year old girl ordered hard liquor on the internet and picked it up from the local post office without any problem.

Though it is illegal to sell alcohol to minors – and for minors to buy alcohol – police say it’s a difficult problem to monitor.

Jan-Ingemar Karlsson at Swedish Customs says the post office doesn’t have resources to check everything, and Swedes are eager to get alcohol and tobacco on the cheap.

“On the other hand, Swedes call us about drugs because they consider that a much more serious offence,” he told GT.

Gambling in Sweden falls under the auspices of the state-owned Svenska Spel, but the EU is not happy to support the monopoly.

Now the EU commission is questioning a new decision that secures the position of the organisation. Gambling organizations from other EU countries are eager to tap into the market and the EU court is looking at several cases involving the Swedish monopoly.

Douglas Roos, president of the British firm Ladbrokes, told Dagens Nyheter he believes the EU commission will break the monopoly.

“This is an attack on the gambling monopoly and confirms what we’ve said for the past three years,” he said.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet, GT