March 23, 2011 - Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products in Sweden jumped 10 percent last year compared to 2009 as they become more easily available across the country, according to figures from the Apoteket Service.
A total of 2.75 million packs of smoking cessation products were sold for slightly more than 524 million kronor ($79.39 million), representing a 9 percent increase in the value of products sold compared to 2009. The figures compiled by news agency TT demonstrate that nicotine replacement therapy sales are rapidly increasing in Sweden. The sales of the goods have become more widespread than ever and are more accessible to consumers.
However, those who use the products and are trying to quit cigarettes and snus risk falling into a new addiction.
Margaretha Haglund, a tobacco policy expert who used to be at the Swedish National Institute of Public Health (Statens folkhälsoinstitut) now at the think tank Tobacco Facts, pointed out that the products are now clearly commercialised. "They can be purchased in more places and accordingly, there are also more people who are buying them," she said.
Haglund added that there is a risk that the products are not seen the same way as before as aids to smoking cessation.
"Now, when one looks at the marketing, there are more materials one can resort to when he or she cannot or is not allowed to smoke," she pointed out.
Whether the sales increase represents an actual decline in smoking is unclear. Smoking in general is steadily decreasing, but the proportion of Swedes who call themselves former smokers has remained fairly constant in recent years, according to agency statistics.
A negative result of the sales is that people can also become addicted to the products.
Margaretha Stålnacke, a tobacco cessation counselor for the national smoking cessation hotline, said that it receives calls from people who have become addicted to nicotine cessation remedies. "It happens quite frequently. The recommended period of use of the products is three months. A number of those who contact us have used the products for about a year or even several years," she said.
As a nicotine-gum addict, Mike Metzger used to worry about the warning on its label: "Stop using the nicotine gum at the end of 12 weeks." But that was before a prominent smoking-cessation scientist, K. Michael Cummings, told him to keep chewing the gum as long as it helped him stay off cigarettes. So 15 years after quitting smoking, Mr. Metzger, a 63-year old retired New York telephone worker, still chews 16 pieces of nicotine. (A one- to two-week supply of nicotine gum can cost $50 to $70.) (Chew On This: Sticking With Nicotine Gum for the Long Haul by DAVID KESMODEL and KEVIN HELLIKER, The Wall Street Journal, 3/1/2011.
Reference: Nicotine replacement therapy sales soar, The Local, 1/24/2011.