Reason Swedes smoke fewer cigarettes

Cigarettes are smoked by the trillions every year across the world, and Big Tobacco is only rivaled by Big Oil in terms of net profit in private industry. Even with so much of the world much more environmentally sound and health conscious, cigarette consumption is still incredibly high. On average, an adult smokes about 1,000 cigarettes per year. However, breaking these statistics down by country, you'll find that some nations smoke far fewer cigarettes than others.

Sweden, in particular, ranks 74th out of 185 qualifying countries. It's around the middle of the pack, but as a European country those numbers could also be a lot higher. So why is it that the Swedes aren't smoking as much as, say, Bulgarians or Russians?

A Different Type of Culture

Opinion is the best you'll find as to legitimate reasons cultures differ in such trivialities, primarily because the majority of the scant studies performed on such subjects are inherently flawed in their outlook. However, the inference one gathers from cultural conditioning is extrapolated from a historical context; i.e. Americans holding “freedom” in higher regard having to earn it, Italians being specific about a particular cuisine, the Chinese intentionally passing on careers, and something like snus being particularly Swedish.

The Swedes are responsible for what the world knows today as snus. Derived from a French version of an inhaled tobacco powder, Snus has been a part of Swedish culture for well over a century. As American as apple pie, as Swedish as snus – it's a national thing in country; it's a prideful aspect of Swedish culture to an extent. You can find snus in any store, snus online, snus at your neighbor's house – snus everywhere throughout the nation.

And for those thinking that Europeans are just more health-conscious than the rest of the world, that's also false. While the UK ranks 73rd and Finland ranks 75th in cigarette consumption, Serbia, Bulgaria, Russia, Greece, the Ukraine, Slovenia, and Bosnia all rank in the top 10 in consumption.

There's another way this breaks down as well. Per industrialized, wealthier nations, Sweden is actually among the lowest consumers of cigarettes. While countries like Chad, Uganda, Tonga, Ghana and Somalia rank incredible low overall, it's important to note that a driving factor in the lack of cigarette consumption in these lower-ranked nations is that there isn't the same type of tobacco enterprise. You're not going to find a lot of corner shops in Chad selling smokes, nor will you find cigarette companies operating in these nations. Ugandans aren't looking to shop for cigarettes or snus online. And even if there were, people still don't have the disposable income to spend on cigarettes.

The bottom line is that snus, being a historically Swedish product, is something that's inherently cultural to the Swedes. Cigarettes take a back seat in terms of vice here and snus is the widely used product of choice.