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Delegates to the world conference on tobacco in Helsinki were reminded throughout the meeting what a strong leadership role Finland has played in tobacco control. On the way to achieving one of the world’s fastest declines in lung cancer mortality among middle aged men, it was one of the first countries to ban all forms of tobacco promotion.
But admiring visitors did not have to go far to be reminded that wherever there is the slightest loophole, the slime of tobacco advertising will ooze out. One delegate took a post-conference trip across the Baltic Sea to Stockholm, noting with satisfaction that Silja Line, the company operating the ferry, had received an award in the government backed “Golden Fork” scheme.
This is described as promoting non-smoking in hotels and restaurants, and is carried out “face to face” by the means of health education, and is a national quality project. Silja’s own website proclaims that taking responsibility for the environment is an integral aspect of its total quality management system. Not quite total enough, as the ship was full of multiple display racks of all varieties of tobacco, some just above child’s eye height confectionery displays, as well as large, back-illuminated tobacco ads that dominated the duty free shop.
Silja says it strives to earn the respect of its customers and the general public by making a pioneering contribution in the sphere of environmental protection. In future, it may care to consider that the environment starts with its customers, and especially with their children.