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New smoking ban in Finland expected to pass by summer

Measure will further restrict presence of tobacco in society, Adventist health expert says

New smoking ban in Finland expected to pass by summer

The Finnish government recently proposed stricter smoking laws that will likely take effect this summer. The restrictions include no smoking in cars with underage occupants and a ban on displaying tobacco products in stores. [photo: Rajmund Dabrowski]

The Finnish government took further measures for public health earlier this month by proposing a ban on smoking in private cars with underage occupants and prohibiting stores from displaying tobacco products.

While government statistics report that only 20 percent of the Finnish population smokes, the goal is to eliminate smoking entirely, said state Health Ministry secretary Ilkka Oksala in an interview with the BBC. Health experts for the Seventh-day Adventist Church supported the move, citing the church's long-time emphasis on health and wellness.

"Any measure that makes a substance a little more difficult to acquire ... has been shown to result in a decreased consumption of the product," said Allan Handysides, director of heath ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. "There's a linear association between the amount of the product used and the amount of the disease that we see in the whole community."

What people don't realize when they start smoking is that giving up the habit is just as difficult as giving up cocaine or heroin, Handysides said.

Handysides added that making tobacco products less visible was key.

"It's a psychological impediment to it being so readily accessible, and that's a very, very good thing," he said.

Finland's ruling party in parliament is championing the anti-smoking legislation and faces little opposition from other parties, the BBC reported. The proposed laws will likely be implemented by summer.

"To make Finland a smoke-free country is probably the boldest goal ever against smoking from the [Finnish] health authorities," said Atte Helminen, president for the Adventist Church in Finland. "It is great to see how the health principles [the church] has promoted for so long are now recognized by the government as well."

The Finnish parliament first outlawed tobacco advertising in 1976.