Nicotine a hot commodity in Norway

I’ve already related my astonishment (yes, even when forewarned) about $12 to $15 beers and $15 to $20 glasses of house wine in Norway, thanks to the dwindling dollar and those oil-rich Norwegians. (I spoke with one German couple whose beer cost a whopping 12 Euro, or about $18, at a cafe in the tourist district in Bergen.)

Rack of plastic cards for tobacco products in supermarket. Click to ENLARGE

Rack of plastic cards for tobacco products in supermarket. Click to ENLARGE

So it’s a good thing we don’t imbibe in tobacco as well, as packs of cigarettes in Norway cost about 76 NOK (Norwegian Kroner) or $15. I was fascinated by the way they were sold at the ICA supermarket and I assume elsewhere. At each checkout counter was a rack of plastic cards, kind of like gift cards, with tobacco brands and bar codes printed on them. You take your card/pack of choice, have it scanned by the cashier and then pop it into a nearby vending machine that resembles an ice machine and out comes your cigs.

I’d like to say that the high price of cigarettes has helped cut down on smoking, and perhaps it has overall, but, as I mentioned earlier, I was very surprised by the number of young people smoking, especially the gals. Many of the guys, meanwhile, have turned to “snus” or snuff, the nicotine powder product kept in one’s mouth for a time-released charge. Snuff use has been called an epidemic among male teens, according to a 2007 article in the country’s leading paper, the Aftenposten. I saw older men use it as well, including a businessman I sat next to on a plane. I don’t know the cost of snuff, but I’m sure it’s high.

I should mention here that the smoking stats for the US and Norway are about the same — an estimated 21-22 percent of adults smoke. Wessel says we notice it more in Norway because more people in general, including smokers, are outside — at cafes, using public transportation, etc. I think he makes a good point.

warning labels on cigarette packages

Warning labels on cigarette packages

Norway was one of the first countries to ban smoking in buildings, and, like many European countries, they have GIANT warning labels on the packages, so it’s not like they’re not trying. I hope they also consider banning smoking near doorways, as we had to rush through clouds of smoke before entering many restaurants, large stores, and office buildings.

As Americans used to say before half of us quit smoking, there’s nothing more annoying than a reformed smoker! Now they’re so many of us, we don’t stand out. (That would be me. Wessel has never smoked. Anything!)


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3 Responses to “Nicotine a hot commodity in Norway”

  1. Karen Says:

    Thanx for another fun post! I love it that you report on the details of a place…it’s the stuff that lets you know you’re There and not Here any more. Photos MUCH appreciated!

  2. Frank Says:

    How about writing somehting about Norway and Sweden´s tv licence fee LAW, which makes it obligatory for anyone in posession of a tv to cough up nrk.2350.- (around $230US) per year, and puishable if not paid. The law goes so far as to allow the government to garnish salaries and pensions.
    Norwegian and Swedish politicians call that law, democratic. The entire tv and radio systems are run and controlled by the government, which is the Labor Party. The law serves NO real purpose, just finances the broadcasting systems, which are… generally, anti American! Why does any so called, civilized country need such a media system and law to protect it?
    I would like your opinion on this subject. Politicans here are unwilling to discuss the matter. They claim that: law is law! So was the poll tax law in the USA! hear from you, then? Thanks.

  3. Andyham Says:

    Just gottta point out (even though the post is years old :P) that the tv licensed channel is a good thing indeed. It pays for the only channel on Norwegian TV that is 100% ad free. And it also has the broadest specter of content, as the shows are not depended on high viewer numbers to be broadcasted. “Rare” national sports like skiing, low budget European movies, odd documentaries as well as HBO series, quality Hollywood movies (lets face it, the majority of them are rather crap) and olympics. It is also presented by normal looking people (weather/anchor-men and women) and not just models that makes the channel obtain many viewers. Its truly my favorite channel, and at the same time its a channel i would let my child watch (if I were to have one soon :) withouth feeling guilty.

    I think it symbolizes how the democracy and capitalism-combo is not always the best way to go.

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