“Great public health benefits can be achieved for the individual and society by having fewer smokers and showing a greater deference to those who don’t smoke,” minister for children and the elderly, Maria Larsson, told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.
On Wednesday, Larsson tasked Sweden’s National Institute of Public Health (Folkhälsoinstitutet) with analyzing the extent to which second-hand smoke can be found in public places, and in particular places that are frequented by children.
Larsson wants the agency to come up with proposals that would “further reduce passive smoking” in public places as part of efforts to give younger people greater access to smoke-free environments.
Since 2005, smoking in pubs and restaurants has been banned in Sweden. However, 15 percent of Swedes are still exposed to second-hand smoke at least once a week, according to government statistics cited in Larsson’s request.
In looking at how Sweden could further extend its current smoking ban, the public health agency will look at the possibility of prohibiting people from lighting up at bus stops, train platforms, balconies, and open-air cafes – areas highlighted by Sweden’s main allergy and asthma advocacy group, the Astma- och Allergiförbundet (‘The Asthma and Allergy Association’).
Centre Party MP Anders W. Jonsson, a paediatrician, also wants to see smoking banned on pedestrian thoroughfares, balconies, and parts of public parks.
“Places where we don’t force other people to smoke,” he told SvD.
“My main message is that people should be free to be outside without being exposed to passive smoking.”
Jonsson has received several complaints from constituents who say they are unable to spend time on their own balconies because the air is polluted by neighbours’ second-hand smoke.
“This smoking on balconies is a real scourge. It really infringes on people freedom to use their balconies,” he said.
However, Larsson refused to comment on exactly which outdoor spaces in Sweden might be covered in an extended smoking ban.
“That’s why we’ve launched the inquiry,” she told SvD.
“As the minister for children, I’m naturally quite interested in how we can reduce children’s risk for exposure to tobacco smoke.”