Nicotine is a substance extracted from the tobacco plant. It is the key addictive component of tobacco products such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and brown and white snus. Nicotine is a poison with a powerful impact on the body, and the child’s brain is extra sensitive. In addition, children can get addicted more easily than adults.
Pure nicotine is so toxic that it is banned. If you get 0.5–1.0 g at once, you die. Cigarettes, snus and other nicotine products contain much less nicotine than that, but still enough to make you feel sick or even vomit the first time you use it. It is the body’s warning that nicotine is dangerous. Most people are in their teens when they try products that contain nicotine, and even though the body reacts negatively, many of them try again because of peer pressure, often at school. After a while, tolerance to the nicotine develops and the feeling of discomfort ceases. Then they can experience positive effects of nicotine, such as feeling alert for example.
Young people experience these effects more strongly than adults, and they also run a greater risk of becoming dependent of nicotine. It is a highly addictive substance, to a greater degree than cocaine and heroin. Use snus only 5–6 times and you are in the risk-zone for being addicted.
Statistics show that a third of the adult population in Sweden is addicted to nicotine, and almost all of them became dependent in their teens. 23 percent use nicotine daily and 7 percent at intervals. Being addicted is expensive and you become unfree in your everyday life by always having to make sure to have nicotine within reach. There is also an important risk that using nicotine will, sooner or later, end in adverse health effects.
For example, about 12,000 people die in Sweden each year due to smoking. So far, not much is known about to what extent the use of such products as e-cigarettes and brown and white snus have negative effects on human health.
An increasing number of research studies show how nicotine damages the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, and the brain. For example, nicotine exposure early in the fetal stage risks disrupting normal brain development. Use of nicotine can cause different kinds of changes to how the brain works until the age of 25. Using nicotine risks impairing the memory function and the ability to concentrate on something and there are also strong indications that smoking takes a heavy toll on mental health.
Much more careful research has been undertaken on harmful effects of smoking than on health risks from using other nicotine products, but as use of new nicotine products increases concurrently with decreased smoking, more research is being devoted to the new products. The tobacco industry calls nicotine a stimulant – a substance for relaxation and recreation. From a public health and child-rights perspective, children should be spared such misleading claims. Read more about how the tobacco industry works to enlist children as nicotine consumers and how society can help them say no to all forms of nicotine products and yes to a life free from nicotine addiction.
Puffbars and white snus (a smokeless oral nicotine product) also called nicotinpouches has become increasingly popular and is for many young people a gateway to a nicotine addiction that they should have been spared. Enticing flavors trick young people into believing that the product is harmless, but it is as addictive as any other tobacco product.
White snus, marketed by the tobacco industry in oral nicotine pouches, is a relatively new product and the same goes for the puffbars. Recent years, the supply and demand have increased drastically. Today, virtually all major tobacco companies have launched their own brands, such as ZYN by Swedish Match, LYFT by British American Tobacco Sweden, and Nordic Spirit by Japan Tobacco International. The product has become increasingly popular, not least among children and adolescents.
Tobacco companies often market white snus as tobacco-free – even though the product contains high doses of nicotine extracted from tobacco. This is a tactic that companies use to make pretence of the product being less harmful, and to circumvent the law governing tobacco products.
By claiming that the products are tobacco-free and by having exchanged tobacco’s brown color for white and usually making them taste like tobacco, companies have escaped all the tobacco law’s rules regarding, for example, marketing, sales, excise duty, and the age limit for the purchase of tobacco products. They have, therefore, been able to attract consumers, even young people under the age of 18, with attractive packaging, pleasing condiments, and tempting advertising.
Large tobacco companies spend millions of dollars paying well-known persons to promote white snus and puffbars on social media. A survey 2020 in Sweden regarding young people’s attitudes to tobacco showed that more than a fifth of young people aged 14–18 said that they often see advertising for tobacco and nicotine products. Sixty five percent said that they believe young people are testing new nicotine products because they seem less dangerous than traditional tobacco products. A considerable share asserted that young people want to try them because they are present in popular culture. They also stated that the fact that they are sold in a variety of fruit flavors is of great importance. Many young people describe the new products as something that ”almost everyone uses”, that they are easy to get hold of and cheap and ”super fresh” with good tastes such as raspberry-licorice, Hubba Bubba flavors or cappuccino.
White snus and puffbars, like other tobacco and nicotine products, is highly addictive and poses many kinds of serious health risks. The Swedish Agency for Assessment of Health Technology and Social Services has performed a study that shows that users of snus or e-cigarettes start smoking traditional cigarettes more often than other people.
To protect children and young people from becoming trapped in a harmful habit, all nicotine products, except medicines, should be classified, taxed, and regulated as tobacco, and flavorings should be banned in all nicotine products.
No child dreams of starting to smoke or use snus. Yet, millions of children around the world are lured into nicotine addiction every year. It is hard for young people to see through the tobacco industry’s manipulative marketing and resist pressure from friends, but society can help them not to be enticed into use of nicotine by introducing well thought-out political measures.
Widespread tobacco use is a fairly new phenomenon. It is only in the last 100 years that nicotine has been approved of as an everyday and popular drug. The proportion of the population that is dependent on nicotine varies between countries. In Sweden, for example, between 25 and 30 percent of the population is addicted to nicotine use.
Almost everyone who is unable to stop using nicotine products initiated their tobacco use as teenagers. One reason for this is that tobacco companies, with the help of massive advertising, have for many years succeeded in making use of their products to become a marker of group identity for teenagers. In addition, nicotine products have been and still are used by many young people to mark the transition to adulthood. It is not just about cigarettes but also about novel and emerging nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and snus that nowadays are available in several different forms in more and more countries.
Children see tobacco everywhere
In many countries, children see nicotine products, like any other consumer product, in shops, supermarkets and kiosks. There, the products are openly displayed in nicely designed packaging that arouses children’s curiosity. Both in their spare time and at school young people frequently see their friends use different kinds of nicotine products. Many people who have become addicted to nicotine say that they began using nicotine products because they found it difficult to resist peer pressure.
Businesses take advantage of social media to market their nicotine products. Influencers who have the power to affect children’s purchase decisions are paid by the tobacco industry to describe the new nicotine products as trendy. This kind of marketing is used to attract young people to try them, which may result in addiction to nicotine even though it is well-known that it has many hazardous effects on individuals and society.
Society has a duty to act
The burden of resisting both advertising and peer pressure should not be on children’s shoulders. Society must take up fight against the tobacco industry on behalf of children. One way to do so is for the government to legislate for the protection of children from being brought into contact with nicotine products. The World Health Organization has worked out the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to provide a response to the tobacco epidemic. The Convention has been signed by 168 countries.
Prohibiting all forms of tobacco advertising
Children who don’t see advertisements for nicotine products get less curious to try them. Bans on advertising such products also reduce social acceptability of using them.
Prohibition of condiments in all products
The regulations on adding flavors to tobacco vary worldwide, but the tobacco industry’s reason for using them is the same everywhere, on one hand that seasoning makes the products feel less dangerous, on the other that the threshold for children to try them becomes lower. Banning flavors in cigarettes, e-cigarettes, snus and other products containing nicotine reduces the risk of children becoming addicted.
Nicotine- and tobacco-free school hours
Due to peer pressure, many children try nicotine products for the first time when they are at school. Therefore, banning use of nicotine during school hours would protect them from being persuaded into using it. Many children have expressed the view that a law forbidding the use of nicotine during school-hours would help them to refrain from starting to smoke or use other nicotine products.
Classify and regulate new products as tobacco products
To protect children, all novel and emerging forms of nicotine products should be classified as and be subject to the same regulatory controls as other tobacco products. This is necessary since tobacco companies are constantly developing new ways to hook children on their products with the aim of getting them to use nicotine as a habit. Flexible legislation that also covers future nicotine products that are introduced into the market, would reduce the risk of children being addicted.
Here are the facts for you who want to support your child to say no to all forms of tobacco. Interspersed with knowledge, there are also reflection questions that you can raise with your child. The idea is that the questions will contribute to an important conversation about nicotine addiction, and all forms of nicotine products. The goal is for your child to gain their own motivation to say no and be better equipped to withstand peer pressure.
The tobacco industry has been striving for over 100 years to make money making young people addicted to nicotine, and they have a number of well-developed strategies aimed at enticing your child to try tobacco. As you probably know, your child does not get any health benefits or financial benefits from being an addict. Rather, it has many negative consequences, both in the short and long term. It is not certain that your child realizes this and therefore it is important that you help him to reflect on it.
Brief facts about tobacco use
Tobacco is no longer just about cigarettes and brown snus but also e-cigarettes, puff bars, and white snus (or so-called nicotine bags). New products are constantly coming out on the market. Common to all the products is that they contain nicotine which is highly addictive.
Almost all addicted adults became so when they were teenagers. If you can help your child to abstain from tobacco until he or she turns 20, it means a reduced risk of addiction in adulthood. It is a great benefit for your child, both financially and health-wise.
Brief facts about nicotine
The latest research shows that the use of nicotine during adolescence or early adulthood rebuilds and creates lasting changes in the brain. This is because the brain has not had time to be fully developed and is therefore more sensitive to nicotine.
Nicotine use has a negative effect on children’s concentration and memory, and increases the risk of mental illness. Children and adolescents who use nicotine products are also more susceptible to infections and also get easier headaches and stomach aches. This means that they get more school absenteeism, which risks affecting school results. It has also been shown that children who are addicted to nicotine have an easier time starting with other drugs, such as cannabis.
Here you and your child can watch a short animated film about nicotine (1.44 min) Reflect on the content together. Please note specifically that even products called tobacco-free are full of nicotine – which is addictive.
This is how children are attracted
The tobacco industry uses various tricks to recruit children and huge amounts of money are invested in marketing – $ 1 million per hour globally. Among other things, there is a massive impact on social media, which most parents do not know about, and child locks, for example, via their channels on Tik Tok and Instagram. There, influencers, on behalf of the tobacco companies, show new nicotine products that children become curious about. These are available with thousands of enticing flavors, the packaging is nicely designed with nice colors. It is easy for children to order new products at home, such as puff bars, white snus and e-cigarettes, even if they are under 18 years old. The deliveries are either so neutral that parents do not react or the children pick them up via postal agents. As a parent, it is extremely difficult to have an overview of what the children see and do.
Ask your child/children how often they see different nicotine and tobacco products on their social media, how they are produced and how they (or their friends) are affected by it, show that you understand that it can be easy to miss that the products are dangerous – because they are so colorful and flavored with the same types of flavors as, for example, sweets – but help your child reflect on how he can do to remind himself how important it is to say no.
You as a parent/guardian are an important support for your child to be able to say no. Because it’s not an easy thing. The group pressure among children is great and when you want to fit in, it is easy to give in. Tobacco has been used by teenagers for many years as a marker for them to start growing up. It used to be ”cool” to smoke, now many young people think it is cool to also use snus and e-cigarettes. And even if you yourself do not think so, maybe even friends do. There is a great risk that your child will start because someone at school offers nicotine products.
Talk to your child about peer pressure. Feel free to share if you yourself have any memories from your teenage years about it. It does not matter if you fell for the peer pressure or if you managed to resist. All experiences are rewarding for your child to talk about. Feel free to play role-playing games where your child gets to practice saying no when you play a friend who is trying to invite.
Get support from other parents
Being a parent is great, but it is also difficult. The teenage period can be a little extra tricky. The children become more independent and you as a parent / guardian get less insight into the children’s private sphere. You no longer have any natural meeting places where you meet other parents and it can sometimes feel lonely to deal with all the issues that arise. Feel free to contact some other parents, mothers and fathers of friends of your children, and talk about how you can help to prevent your children from becoming addicted. You can also raise the issue at the school’s parent meetings. And you, tell me you did it for your kids. Maybe your child shows some irritation, but remember that deep down, children are happy when they notice that their parents are getting involved.
All children are different. However, research shows that it is effective to ban your child from using tobacco. However, you do not have to start at that end, but can instead first ask your child how you can best act to help him not become addicted. After you have talked about it, you can say that you, out of consideration, also forbid your child to use all kinds of nicotineproducts.
Dare to be hard
It is never possible to know when your particular child will be exposed to tobacco on their social media, or be pressured to try it by friends. Therefore, it is good if you raise the issue of tobacco regularly. Even you who use tobacco yourself can do it. Maybe your child will question why you try to help him say no, when you yourself snuff or smoke. You can then explain that you know what it’s like to be a nicotinist, and do not want your child to be one too. Also, think about how you talk about tobacco products when your children are around. If you lift snus as something harmless, the risk increases that your child will also start.
More arguments that can motivate your teen
Your child may not care how a nicotine addiction would affect their health or finances. But then there are several other things to talk about. One argument that may motivate your teen to give up is that it is common for children to be exploited in tobacco production. In fact, it is so horrible that many children die every year because they have been poisoned by nicotine and pesticides in the tobacco fields. Another argument that can go awry is that all tobacco products harm the environment.
Here you and your child can watch a short animated film about how tobacco harms the environment (1.26 min) Reflect on the content together.
If your child does not accept the above argument, you can try to lift tobacco use from an economic perspective. Ask how much different nicotineproducts cost and talk about how much a daily use would cost your child economically. Ask your teen what they would rather do for that money.
Sign to increase the protection of children
This support material has been developed as part of the Laws for All Children’s Future campaign. The campaign aims to influence politicians to legislate to protect children from addiction and thereby help them say no. You can be involved in influencing tobacco policy by signing a petition. Read more and sign up here!
Swedish Think Tank Tobaksfakta made a study 2020 on youth politicians’ views on tobacco and nicotine. Representatives from youth associations of parties represented in the parliament were interviewed. Questions concerning tobacco policy, attitudes to tobacco, own nicotine use and contacts with the tobacco industry were asked.
In the report, leading representatives from seven out of eight political youth associations have been interviewed. Their opinions and ambitions concerning tobacco control have been investigated. The interviews give an insight into the tobacco policy of the future, as several of today’s young politicians will probably become future members of parliament and ministers. Below is a summary of the report.
The interviews showed that there is a clear political dividing line between the three red-green youth unions on one side; Ung Vänster (Young Left), SSU (Social Democratic Youth League), and Grön Ungdom (Young Greens) and the conservative and Sweden Democratic youth unions on the other side: LUF (Liberal Youth of Sweden), MUF (The Moderate Youth League), KDU (Swedish Young Christian Democrats) and SDU (Swedish Democratic Youth). The red-green youth associations were positive to continue with new tobacco prevention measures such as neutral tobacco packaging (so-called plain packaging), bans on flavorings in tobacco products and bans on their exposure. At the same time, they wanted to regulate snus and e-cigarettes in a similar way to traditional cigarettes and problematized the tobacco industry’s marketing towards young people. The conservative and Sweden Democratic youth unions instead opposed all proposals for new tobacco prevention measures. Several of them disliked the expanded smoke-free environments that were introduced in 2019 (outdoor restaurants, bus stops, playgrounds, etc.) and wanted to promote the consumption of snus in various ways.
In a comparison between the interviews with members of parliament from the youth unions’ parent parties last year and the representatives of the political youth associations, some similarities emerged. Both present day and future political leaders admitted that the tobacco issue is not a priority. It is not seen as an issue that causes voters to change parties and is therefore not given a place in debates and election campaigns. Among the representatives from the red-green parliamentary parties: The Left Party, the Social Democrats and the Green Party and their respective youth unions, there was a high level of agreement in their answers. They shared views on already implemented proposals as well as on new tobacco prevention measures.
A general difference between the members of parliament and the young politicians was the focus on the use of snus, especially white snus. As the members of parliament had a clear focus on smoking and traditional cigarettes, the young politicians attached more importance to white snus. Several young politicians described how the concept of daily smoking felt abstract as they had no one in their circles of acquaintances who smoked and as they grew up in a society where smoking was prohibited in many places. On the other hand, several of the young politicians themselves used white snuff, and said that many of their friends did the same. Among young politicians there was a strong commitment to regulate white snus more strictly than today while members of parliament wanted to deregulate it and not oppose its consumption available. Furthermore, there were significant differences of opinion between conservative parent parties and youth associations. The interviewed representatives from the Moderates, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats were significantly more positive about both already implemented and new proposals for tobacco prevention measures than their youth unions MUF, LUF and KDU, which strongly opposed all these actions.
The last chapter of the report is a survey of future tobacco policy. There are many indications that the tobacco issue will continue to be a low priority and will not take place in political debates and election campaigns in the future. A generally low commitment, which could be seen among today’s young politicians, is also linked to a low level of knowledge in the tobacco area. That makes future members of parliament easier targets for tobacco lobbyists’ attempts at political influence.
It is likely that the tobacco policy of the future will not be so much about smoking, but instead about white snuff, despite the fact that smoking is still one of the biggest causes of illness and premature death in Sweden that can be avoided. The use of white snus has increased sharply among young people and engages young politicians significantly more than smoking. In 2021, Kantar Sifo, a company that performs public opinion studies, interviewed 2,000 Swedes on behalf of Tobaksfakta. The survey shows that 78% of respondents opposed the launch of white snus, as they understood that the product is both harmful to health and addictive. However, the tobacco industry seems to have succeeded in portraying the product as harmless to large groups of the population and also to many politicians. The tobacco industry will continue to invest large resources in lobbying for white snus to be deregulated and thus consumed by more young people. If large groups of young people end up in lifelong addictions to the product, the long-term financial profits of the tobacco companies will be secured.
Despite the fact that today there is widespread opposition to white snus among the population, the future political battle over the product is uncertain. Among the interviewed youth associations, Young Left, Social Democratic Youth League and Young Greens wanted to regulate white snus more strictly than today, including by stopping marketing and flavorings. Other youth associations want to deregulate and introduce measures that would rather increase consumption of the product. At the same time, the red-green youth associations criticized the influence of tobacco lobbyism on Swedish politicians and wanted to regulate lobbyism. In contrast, conservative and Sweden Democratic youth associations saw no problem with Swedish politicians having close contacts and exchanges with tobacco lobbyists. Which side the tobacco industry prefers is not difficult to predict. The future will tell which party will win the future tobacco policy battle.
What does it look like in your country?
Maybe results from the study are unique for Swedish youth politicians. But what if here are similarities amongst youth politicians in your country.What if your youth politicians were in the same situation, being an easy prey for the tobacco lobbying? That would be a serious threat to the European youth´s health!
Together we can plan for an extended evaluation. Let´s share experiences and plans for a serious examination. Contact Nils Lundin for further discussion.
Dental care sees early the damage/injuries caused by tobacco and nicotine use, meet the majority of the population regularly and have the utmost trust from our patients and society. Dental care has a unique possibility to be a voice in the general debate to contribute to a decreased tobacco and nicotine consumption in society.
Clinically we see the findings of research, namely periodontitis (tooth loss) and oral cancer and the great suffering that they cause. In our role in dentalcare we have the unique possibility to act and help/motivate patients to quit their use of tobacco/nicotine and to prevent children and youth from beginning.
Primary prevention: On individual level ask the question about tobacco and nicotine use, record this in patient’s chart and follow up. Group information at different arenas e.g., Schools.
Secondary prevention: Tobacco/nicotine cessation.
We see a powerful increase in use of new nicotine products. The greatest challenge is the white, so-called tobacco free snus (nicotine pouches) spreading in Europe
A good oral health is the ground for a good general health.
Methods Dissemination of knowledge at different levels.
At the clinic, to patients and relatives
At settings where children/youth are e.g., schools
To the adult population
To decision makers e.g., Politicians.
Individual contacts in treatment situations. Dissemination of short factual films (a nicotine film and a film on the importance of ruling, help children say no ) in waiting rooms, social media, creating a website www.nicotinefreefutureforchildren.org
An increased knowledge about nicotine’s hazardous effects. Prevent the potential spreading of white snus in Europe. Through the dissemination of knowledge to patients and society about nicotine products and not only smoking’s negative effects, we can help prevent children from getting addicted to nicotine.
Dental care’s unique possibility to be a voice in the general debate to contribute to a decreased tobacco and nicotine consumption in society.
Decreased suffering for the individual and decreased costs for society.
We are an important but unused resource in the population’s healthcare and as opinion leaders.
Laws are required for the protection of children and youth against tobacco and nicotine products.
Author: Johanna Reuterving Smajic email@example.com, Birgitta Enmark, Lena Sjöberg.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further discussion.