Copenhagen aims to be smoke-free by 2025

A new vision by Copenhagen’s deputy mayor of health was lauded by some but criticised by others for being unrealistic and unjust

Rather than banning smoking outright, Copenhagen’s deputy mayor of health and care, Ninna Thomsen (Socialistisk Folkeparti), believes that the voluntary route will better cater to her goal of a smoke-free city by 2025.

Thomsen’s vision follows in the wake of Aarhus Council’s move to ban all smoking for council workers during work hours. But while Aarhus became the first smoke-free council in Denmark, the plan in Copenhagen is more gradual and smoker-friendly.

“I think it works going in with a more positive outlook where we don’t persecute smokers in Copenhagen,” Thomsen told Politiken newspaper. “We need to build a bridge and give smokers the opportunity to stop rather than force them to. We know that many smokers actually want to quit.”

Specifically, the aim of the plan is that by 2025, only four percent of the city’s citizens will be smokers, a significant drop from the 21 percent that currently smoke. It also means that 72,000 people will have to quit tobacco in the next 13 years, which is an ambitious 27,000 people more than previously expected.

Amongst the initiatives planned to reduce smoking are more offers of free stop-smoking courses and campaigns. Thomsen hopes that businesses, event planners, associations and others will participate in reaching the objective.

“I hope it will become a trend to become a smoke-free company and that it becomes a badge of honour to have signed the charter,” Thomsen told Politiken. “It’s on the same line as businesses that want to promote social responsibility and ecology.”

One business that has shown interest in the idea is Parken, the stadium that hosts numerous sporting events and concerts. A stadium official hopes that Parken will be completely smoke-free in 10-15 years.

But critics, including Hans Henrik Storm, the head of the department of prevention at cancer advocacy organisation Kræftens Bekæmpelse, have been quick to label the initiative as an unrealistic utopia.

“It sounds quite over-exaggerated. With the amount of smokers we have today and the numbers quitting, it will take at least another 20 years before smoking is eradicated,” Storm told TV2 News. “And to be completely smoke-free, we would have to build a wall around the country. But I think we can reduce it to ten percent or so.”

According to the think tank Cepos, the very idea of coercing people into quitting is absurd.

“The state telling citizens how to act by regulation in such detail is incompatible with a free society. Where will it end?” Cepos's director of legal affairs Jacob Mchangama asked

Ten million kroner has been allocated to budget a smoke-free Copenhagen.