British King's Visit to France Canceled amid Mass Protests

King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla are making their first state visit to France and Germany. Chris Jackson / POOL/AFP/File
King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla are making their first state visit to France and Germany. Chris Jackson / POOL/AFP/File
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British King's Visit to France Canceled amid Mass Protests

King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla are making their first state visit to France and Germany. Chris Jackson / POOL/AFP/File
King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla are making their first state visit to France and Germany. Chris Jackson / POOL/AFP/File

Protesters angry at French President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms continued with scattered actions on Friday amid slowed train traffic, rows of trucks blocking access to Marseille's commercial port and debris still littering the Paris streets following the previous day's mass demonstrations.

Over 450 protesters were arrested in Paris and beyond on Thursday as some 300 demonstrations drew more than a million people nationwide to protest against unpopular pension reforms.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Friday that some 441 police and gendarmes were injured as violence marred some marches.

He added that 1,000 trash bins were set on fire in the French capital during the previous day’s action. Amid a weeks-long refuse collectors strike, trash bins have become a symbol of the protest.
Polls say most French oppose Macron’s bill to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, which he says is necessary to keep the system afloat.

The supply of fuel to Paris by the large Gonfreville-L’Orcher refinery in Normandy resumed Friday after police intervened, according to Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher. At the Fos-sur-mer oil terminal near Marseille, however, protesters were meeting to plan future oil refinery blockades.

Fearing disruptions in coming days as actions continue, France’s Civil Aviation Authority has requested that a third of flights be canceled Sunday at Paris’ second airport, Orly, with 20% to be canceled Monday, The Associated Press said.

Unions have called for new protests and strikes on Tuesday, when Britain's King Charles III is scheduled to visit Bordeaux on the second day of his trip to France. The heavy wooden door of the elegant Bordeaux City Hall was destroyed by fire Thursday night by people taking part in an unauthorized demonstration.

The mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, said Friday he had “difficulty understanding the interest of such acts of vandalism.” Hurmic said that he hopes Charles' visit to his city next week will not be canceled.

“I hope that we do not give this gift to the thugs,” he said, although he acknowledged that a tram ride with the king may now be off the cards.

The protests have drawn support from beyond France’s borders. In Greece, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the French Embassy in Athens on Thursday to show solidarity.

Protesters chanted slogans and held placards that read “Macron, your democracy hangs on nine votes” and “From Greece: victory for the workers of France.”



Jill Biden Stresses from Cairo Support for Youth Education, Women Empowerment

Jill Biden toured the landmarks of Al-Azhar Mosque (Al-Azhar)
Jill Biden toured the landmarks of Al-Azhar Mosque (Al-Azhar)
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Jill Biden Stresses from Cairo Support for Youth Education, Women Empowerment

Jill Biden toured the landmarks of Al-Azhar Mosque (Al-Azhar)
Jill Biden toured the landmarks of Al-Azhar Mosque (Al-Azhar)

First Lady Jill Biden stressed the importance of supporting youth education and empowering women, during her first visit to Egypt on Friday.

Biden landed in Cairo Friday, on the second leg of her six-day trip across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe that seeks to promote empowerment for women and education for young people.

The First Lady visited Al-Azhar Mosque, inspected its historical features and corridors, and listened to an explanation by the President of Al-Azhar University, Salama Daoud, about the history of the mosque.

“Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the most important mosques in Egypt, and one of the most famous ancient mosques in the Islamic world. It was established more than 1083 years ago, to be the most important institution for spreading and teaching moderate and enlightened Islam,” Daoud said.

According to an official statement, “women received great attention from Al-Azhar during the era of the sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayyib, who was keen to support and empower women” working in the mosque.

The American First Lady expressed her happiness at her visit to Egypt and the Al-Azhar Mosque, thanking Daoud for his warm reception.

She also stressed “the importance of supporting youth education and empowering women, and the need for peoples strengthen relations between them.”

Jill Biden also visited the pyramids area in Giza, and stopped in front of the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

She was accompanied during the visit by the Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Ahmed Issa, the Chargé d’Affaires of the US Ambassador to Cairo, John Desrocher, and the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, Mostafa Waziri.

Issa granted a pharaonic necklace-shaped souvenir to Biden at the end of her tour at the Giza Pyramids.

The First Lady also visited a technical school in Cairo, accompanied by the Egyptian Minister of Education and Technical Education, Reda Hegazy, and a number of Egyptian officials.

“Together, the United States and Egypt are working with local companies to bring on-the-job training to the classroom,” she said on Twitter.


Saudi Arabia Re-elected Chair of MENA Region’s Research Councils at GRC

The 11th annual meeting took place from May 29 to June 2 in The Hague. SPA
The 11th annual meeting took place from May 29 to June 2 in The Hague. SPA
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Saudi Arabia Re-elected Chair of MENA Region’s Research Councils at GRC

The 11th annual meeting took place from May 29 to June 2 in The Hague. SPA
The 11th annual meeting took place from May 29 to June 2 in The Hague. SPA

The member states of the MENA Region of the Global Research Council (GRC) have voted to re-elect Saudi Arabia as their representative on the GRC Governing Board.

The decision was made during the council's 11th annual meeting in The Hague, The Netherlands, the Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday.

The President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and the General Supervisor of the founding team of the Research, Development and Innovation Authority, Dr. Munir Eldesouki, will continue to represent Saudi Arabia at the GRC.

The re-election of Eldesouki reaffirms the Kingdom's prominent position in the scientific and research fields and its commitment to fostering cooperation among research centers in the MENA region, SPA said.

This achievement is a testament to the unwavering support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Prime Minister and Head of the Higher Committee of Research, Development and Innovation, it added.

During the annual meeting, which took place from May 29 to June 2, Eldesouki chaired a meeting of the heads of research councils from the MENA region. He also participated in a panel discussion on the funding of climate change research. Additionally, the Kingdom presented a working paper on the challenges and opportunities faced by the research councils in the MENA region.

The Saudi delegation actively engaged in various sideline meetings, including those of the GRC's Executive Committee and the International Consultative Committee.


25 Saudi Universities Among 2023 Global Rankings of Universities with Impact on Achieving UN SDGs

A view shows vehicles driving on a street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
A view shows vehicles driving on a street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
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25 Saudi Universities Among 2023 Global Rankings of Universities with Impact on Achieving UN SDGs

A view shows vehicles driving on a street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
A view shows vehicles driving on a street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

Saudi Arabia has advanced three ranks in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings in 2023, with 25 Saudi universities securing a presence in the global performance index, the Saudi Press Agency reported Sunday.
The number of Saudi universities was 22 in 2022 within the international ranking, which sorts universities that impact achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), SPA said.
Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU) ranked fifth in 2023 among world universities affecting the achievement of the goal of Good Health and Well-Being within the SDGs.
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) ranked fifth under the SDGs for Clean Water and Sanitation and Life Below Water.
King Faisal University (KFU), Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University (PMU), and KAUST are among the universities in the ranks of 101-200 in the general global ranking of universities that impact achieving the SDGs.
Four Saudi universities ranked among places 201-300: Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University (IMSIU); IAU; AlMaarefa University (UM); and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM).
Prince Sultan University (PSU) ranked among the 301-400 ranks, while King Khalid University (KKU) and Qassim University (QU) came among the 401-600 ranks.


Sisi Says Cairo Proud of ‘Close Strategic Partnership’ with US as Jill Biden Visits

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and his wife Entissar meet with US First Lady Jill Biden in Cairo on Friday. (Egyptian presidency)
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and his wife Entissar meet with US First Lady Jill Biden in Cairo on Friday. (Egyptian presidency)
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Sisi Says Cairo Proud of ‘Close Strategic Partnership’ with US as Jill Biden Visits

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and his wife Entissar meet with US First Lady Jill Biden in Cairo on Friday. (Egyptian presidency)
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and his wife Entissar meet with US First Lady Jill Biden in Cairo on Friday. (Egyptian presidency)

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi stressed that his country was proud of the “close strategic partnership” it enjoys with the United States.

Egypt and his wide Entissar received in Cairo on Friday US First Lady Jill Biden, who arrived on a two-day visit.

While in Cairo, Biden will meet with women and youth, and highlight US investments aimed at supporting education initiatives and increasing economic opportunity, said the US embassy in Cairo.

Entissar welcomed Biden at the airport before they both headed to the presidential palace to meet with the president, who conveyed his greetings to his American counterpart.

Biden praised the warm reception she was accorded in Cairo. She later toured the al-Azhar Mosque.

She flew in from Jordan where she attended the wedding of Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah.

She is in the region on a weeklong tour that will take her to two more countries.


Japan Demographic Woes Deepen as Birth Rate Hits Record Low

People use their umbrellas to shelter from the rain as they walk through Shibuya district in Tokyo on June 2, 2023. (AFP)
People use their umbrellas to shelter from the rain as they walk through Shibuya district in Tokyo on June 2, 2023. (AFP)
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Japan Demographic Woes Deepen as Birth Rate Hits Record Low

People use their umbrellas to shelter from the rain as they walk through Shibuya district in Tokyo on June 2, 2023. (AFP)
People use their umbrellas to shelter from the rain as they walk through Shibuya district in Tokyo on June 2, 2023. (AFP)

Japan's birth rate declined for the seventh consecutive year in 2022 to a record low, the health ministry said on Friday, underscoring the sense of crisis gripping the country as the population shrinks and ages rapidly.

The fertility rate, or the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime, was 1.2565. That compares with the previous low of 1.2601 posted in 2005 and is far below the rate of 2.07 considered necessary to maintain a stable population.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has made arresting the country's sliding birth rate a top priority and his government, despite high levels of debt, plans to earmark spending of 3.5 trillion yen ($25 billion) a year on child care and other measures to support parents.

"The youth population will start decreasing drastically in the 2030s. The period of time until then is our last chance to reverse the trend of dwindling births," he said this week while visiting a daycare facility.

The pandemic has exacerbated Japan's demographic challenges, with fewer marriages in recent years contributing to fewer births and COVID-19 partly responsible for more deaths.

The number of newborns in Japan slid 5% to 770,747 last year, a new low, while the number of deaths shot 9% higher to a record 1.57 million, the data showed. More than 47,000 deaths in Japan last year were caused by the coronavirus pandemic.


Biden Trips, Tumbles on Air Force Stage

US President Joe Biden is helped up after falling during the graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
US President Joe Biden is helped up after falling during the graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
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Biden Trips, Tumbles on Air Force Stage

US President Joe Biden is helped up after falling during the graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
US President Joe Biden is helped up after falling during the graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

President Joe Biden took a face-first tumble on Thursday after tripping over an obstacle on stage at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, but he appeared unhurt -- and joked about it later.

Biden, 80, who had delivered the commencement address to graduates of the military academy, had just shaken hands with a cadet and begun walking back to his seat when he fell, AFP said.

Air Force personnel helped him back up and he did not appear to require further help.

As he rose, Biden pointed to the object that had apparently caught his foot. It resembled a small black sandbag on the stage.

White House Communications Director Ben LaBolt tweeted shortly afterward that "he's fine. There was a sandbag on stage while he was shaking hands."

Returning by Air Force One and Marine One to the White House later, Biden had another spot of bad luck: he bumped his head exiting the door of the helicopter.

He showed no sign of injury as he walked across the South Lawn and quipped to reporters that "I got sandbagged."

Biden is the oldest person ever in the presidency and is seeking a second term in the 2024 election. His official doctor's report this year declared him physically fit and he exercises regularly.

In November 2020, shortly after winning his election against the incumbent Donald Trump, Biden broke his foot while playing with a pet dog.


Saudi Arabia’s KSRNR Accorded Government Member Status at Int’l Union for Conservation of Nature

Saudi Arabia’s KSRNR Accorded Government Member Status at Int’l Union for Conservation of Nature
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Saudi Arabia’s KSRNR Accorded Government Member Status at Int’l Union for Conservation of Nature

Saudi Arabia’s KSRNR Accorded Government Member Status at Int’l Union for Conservation of Nature

The King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Development Authority (KSRNR) has been officially announced as a government member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for its efforts in protecting ecosystems, habitats, and wildlife and empowering local communities and involving them in its activities.

Among the first agencies in the Kingdom to obtain membership in IUCN, KSRNR will now have access to the international databases specialized in ecosystem and wildlife protection and utilize the expertise of more than 18,000 experts working in the union.

Securing a seat in the IUNC will enable the authority to establish partnerships and exchange expertise with the union’s members, improve its nature protection activities according to international standards, and ensure environmental sustainability as per the Saudi Vision 2030 and the Saudi Green Initiative targets.


Al Hussein, Rajwa Wedding Captivates Jordan and the World

Jordan's Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah and Rajwa Al-Saif are greeted as they walk together on the day of their royal wedding, in Amman, Jordan, June 1, 2023. (Royal Hashemite Court (RHC)/Handout via Reuters)
Jordan's Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah and Rajwa Al-Saif are greeted as they walk together on the day of their royal wedding, in Amman, Jordan, June 1, 2023. (Royal Hashemite Court (RHC)/Handout via Reuters)
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Al Hussein, Rajwa Wedding Captivates Jordan and the World

Jordan's Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah and Rajwa Al-Saif are greeted as they walk together on the day of their royal wedding, in Amman, Jordan, June 1, 2023. (Royal Hashemite Court (RHC)/Handout via Reuters)
Jordan's Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah and Rajwa Al-Saif are greeted as they walk together on the day of their royal wedding, in Amman, Jordan, June 1, 2023. (Royal Hashemite Court (RHC)/Handout via Reuters)

Jordan's Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah married Saudi architect Rajwa Al-Saif on Thursday in a palace ceremony attended by royals and other VIPs from around the world, as massive crowds gathered across the kingdom to celebrate the region's newest power couple.

Rajwa is daughter to Khalid bin Musaed bin Saif bin Abdulaziz Al-Saif and Azza bint Nayef Abdulaziz Ahmed Al-Sudairi. The wedding drew a star-studded guest list including Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, US First Lady Jill Biden, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and his wife Shanaz Ibrahim Ahmed, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and Crown Princess Mary, King Philippe of Belgium, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Cyprus first lady Philippa Karsera, and Queen Jetsun Pema of Bhutan.

The bride, wearing an elegant white dress by Lebanese designer Elie Saab, arrived at Zahran Palace in a 1968 Rolls-Royce Phantom V custom-made for the crown prince’s late great grandmother. The crown prince arrived earlier in full ceremonial military uniform with a gold-hilted saber.

The families and their guests gathered in an open-air gazebo decked with flowers and surrounded by landscaped gardens for a traditional Muslim wedding. The crowd erupted in applause after the signing of the marriage contract. Al-Saif will henceforth be known as Her Royal Highness Princess Rajwa Al Hussein, according to a royal decree.

Several miles away, a jolt went through a packed ancient Roman amphitheater as viewers watched the couple seal their vows and exchange rings on a wide screen. After several minutes of stillness, the crowd of some 18,000 people were on their feet, waving flags and shrieking with excitement at one of several viewing parties held across the nation.

Samara Aqrabawi, a 55-year-old mother watching the livestream with her young daughter, said the ceremony was more impressive than she imagined. “I wish for all mothers and fathers in Jordan and in the world to feel like they’re surely feeling,” she said of the king and queen.

The newlyweds later emerged from the palace in a white custom Range Rover escorted by several bright red Land Rovers, motorcycles and a military marching band — a nod to the traditional horse-mounted processions during the reign of the country's founder, King Abdullah I.

The kingdom declared Thursday a public holiday so crowds of people could gather to wave at the couple’s motorcade amid a heavy security presence across the city. Tens of thousands of well-wishers attended free concerts and cultural events.

On Thursday morning, Saudi wedding guests and tourists — the men wearing white dishdasha robes and the women in brightly colored abayas — filtered through the marbled lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman.

“We are all so excited, so happy about this union,” said Noura Al-Sudairi, an aunt of the bride. “Of course it’s a beautiful thing for our families, and for the relationship between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”

Excitement over the nuptials — Jordan’s biggest royal event in decades — has been building in the capital of Amman, where congratulatory banners of Hussein and his beaming bride adorn buses and hang over winding hillside streets. Shops had competing displays of royal regalia.

“She looks like such a princess that I think she deserves him,” Suhair Afaneh, a 37-year-old businesswoman, said of the bride, lingering in front of a portrait of Hussein in a dark suit.

Jordan’s 11 million residents have watched the young crown prince rise in prominence in recent years, as he increasingly joined his father, Abdullah, in public appearances. Hussein has graduated from Georgetown University, joined the military and gained some global recognition speaking at the UN General Assembly.

The wedding took place a week after Jordan’s 77th birthday. Combining tradition and modernity, the royal family introduced a wedding hashtag (#Celebrating Al Hussein) and omnipresent logo that fuses the couple’s initials into the Arabic words “We rejoice.”

Zahran Palace in Amman, where the marriage ceremony was held, hasn’t seen such pomp and circumstance since 1993, when, on a similarly sunny June day, Abdullah married Rania, who was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. Decades earlier, Abdullah's father, the late King Hussein, sealed his vows in the same garden with his second wife, the British citizen Antoinette Gardiner.

In addition to the Prince and Princess of Wales, the guest list includes an array of foreign aristocrats and dignitaries, including senior royals from Europe and Asia, Saudi aristocrats, as well as US climate envoy John Kerry.

Both Rajwa and Kate wore gowns by the Lebanese designer Elie Saab, said a spokeswoman for the company, Maryline Mossino.

The motorcade drove through Amman to the Al Husseiniya Palace, a 30-minute drive away, for the reception. There, the newlyweds walked beneath an arch of swords and were welcomed with a traditional zaffeh, a lively musical procession featuring drums, dancing, singing and clapping.

The royals greeted more than 1,700 guests at the reception, which featured live music and a banquet. The celebrations were capped with a fireworks display that could be seen across the capital.

Jordanians from all walks of life shared an infectious excitement about the wedding.

“This is a really important day for my country, and those who are not Jordanian wouldn’t understand,” said Najwa Issamad, a 40-year-old nurse watching her teenage sons dance rowdily to pop wedding music blaring from their phones downtown. “It’s a time for all Jordanians to stop whatever we’re doing and say, let’s celebrate, let’s rejoice.”


Emirates Palace…an International Icon in World of Hospitality

Emirate Palace Mandarin Oriental hotel in Abu Dhabi (Asharq Al-Awsat).
Emirate Palace Mandarin Oriental hotel in Abu Dhabi (Asharq Al-Awsat).
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Emirates Palace…an International Icon in World of Hospitality

Emirate Palace Mandarin Oriental hotel in Abu Dhabi (Asharq Al-Awsat).
Emirate Palace Mandarin Oriental hotel in Abu Dhabi (Asharq Al-Awsat).

The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, officially named Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, is a landmark in the world of international extravagant hotels. Now, the palace is offering people the chance to visit and take a closer look at its breathtaking luxury.

 

In the lobby, you can spot Arab and foreign visitors queuing to enter the hotel through its massive doors accompanied by the receptionists who stand to warmly welcome the guests. The tour often starts at the grand dome known for its unique decoration inspired by the Islamic and Arabic civilization that reflect the history of the country and the region.

 

Executives at the Emirates Palace believe that “the hotel has become a world-known landmark in the UAE, and a site with a cultural and historic significance.”

 

The fancy and precise detail we see are indescribable; gold dominates everywhere inside the hotel. According to CNN, the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, valued at $3 billion, has witnessed the restoration of 2,000 square meters by a specialized team that painted the interior sides of the hotel with real silver and gold.

 

The latest developments promise a new phase of advanced services at the hotel, whose management has always been eager to maintain the legacy of the site and provide new hospitality experiences for guests including renovated rooms, new spa, and improved sport facilities.

 

The hotel is characterized with top-notch sustainable services and trends, and provides redesigned accommodations including the so-called “first vegan rooms” in the region with an eco-friendly design, sustainable beds, vegan menus, and cruelty-free bath products.

 

Located on the shores of the Arabian Gulf, the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental boasts wide areas, expanded lobbies, and highly detailed and diverse decors that reflect an incomparable creativity completed with rare artifacts displayed in glass vitrines in the corners of the corridors.

 

The management of the hotel has been making major steps to ensure significant upgrades that lure more visitors, such as incorporating cafés and restaurants into the main lobby, and dedicating a special pavilion for high-profile gatherings so guests can take their favorite hot and cold beverages on comfortable tables and chairs in keeping with the hotel’s tone, in addition to exquisite food and drink menus.

 

The Mandarin Oriental also includes Michelin starred restaurants and international award-winning spas.

 


Sweden Close to Becoming First 'Smoke Free' Country in Europe as Daily Use of Cigarettes Dwindles

FILE - A no smoking sign is seen at a bus stop in Stockholm, Sweden, June 25, 2019. (Magnus Andersson /TT News Agency via AP, File)
FILE - A no smoking sign is seen at a bus stop in Stockholm, Sweden, June 25, 2019. (Magnus Andersson /TT News Agency via AP, File)
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Sweden Close to Becoming First 'Smoke Free' Country in Europe as Daily Use of Cigarettes Dwindles

FILE - A no smoking sign is seen at a bus stop in Stockholm, Sweden, June 25, 2019. (Magnus Andersson /TT News Agency via AP, File)
FILE - A no smoking sign is seen at a bus stop in Stockholm, Sweden, June 25, 2019. (Magnus Andersson /TT News Agency via AP, File)

Summer is in the air, cigarette smoke is not, in Sweden's outdoor bars and restaurants.

As the World Health Organization marks “World No Tobacco Day” on Wednesday, Sweden, which has the lowest rate of smoking in the Europe Union, is close to declaring itself “smoke free” — defined as having fewer than 5% daily smokers in the population.

Many experts give credit to decades of anti-smoking campaigns and legislation, while others point to the prevalence of “snus,” a smokeless tobacco product that is banned elsewhere in the EU but is marketed in Sweden as an alternative to cigarettes, The Associated Press said.

Whatever the reason, the 5% milestone is now within reach. Only 6.4% of Swedes over 15 were daily smokers in 2019, the lowest in the EU and far below the average of 18.5% across the 27-nation bloc, according to the Eurostat statistics agency.

Figures from the Public Health Agency of Sweden show the smoking rate has continued to fall since then, reaching 5.6% last year.

“We like a healthy way to live, I think that’s the reason,” said Carina Astorsson, a Stockholm resident. Smoking never interested her, she added, because “I don’t like the smell; I want to take care of my body.”

The risks of smoking appear well understood among health-conscious Swedes, including younger generations. Twenty years ago, almost 20% of the population were smokers — which was a low rate globally at the time. Since then, measures to discourage smoking have brought down smoking rates across Europe, including bans on smoking in restaurants.

France saw record drops in smoking rates from 2014 to 2019 but that success hit a plateau during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — blamed in part for causing stresses that drove people to light up. About one-third of people aged 18 to 75 in France professed to having smoked in 2021 — a slight increase on 2019. About a quarter smoke daily.

Sweden has gone further than most to stamp out cigarettes, and says it’s resulted in a range of health benefits, including a relatively low rate of lung cancer.

“We were early in restricting smoking in public spaces, first in school playgrounds and after-school centers, and later in restaurants, outdoor cafes and public places such as bus stations,” said Ulrika Årehed, secretary-general of the Swedish Cancer Society. “In parallel, taxes on cigarettes and strict restrictions on the marketing of these products have played an important role.”

She added that “Sweden is not there yet,” noting that the proportion of smokers is higher in disadvantaged socio-economic groups.

The sight of people lighting up is becoming increasingly rare in the country of 10.5 million. Smoking is prohibited at bus stops and train platforms and outside the entrances of hospitals and other public buildings. Like in most of Europe, smoking isn’t allowed inside bars and restaurants, but since 2019 Sweden’s smoking ban also applies to their outdoor seating areas.

On Tuesday night, the terraces of Stockholm were full of people enjoying food and drinks in the late-setting sun. There was no sign of cigarettes, but cans of snus could be spotted on some tables. Between beers, some patrons stuffed small pouches of the moist tobacco under their upper lips.

Swedish snus makers have long held up their product as a less harmful alternative to smoking and claim credit for the country’s declining smoking rates. But Swedish health authorities are reluctant to advise smokers to switch to snus, another highly addictive nicotine product.

“I don’t see any reason to put two harmful products up against each other,” Årehed said. “It is true that smoking is more harmful than most things you can do, including snus. But that said, there are many health risks even with snus.”

Some studies have linked snus to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and premature births if used during pregnancy.

Swedes are so fond of their snus, a distant cousin of dipping tobacco in the United States, that they demanded an exemption to the EU’s ban on smokeless tobacco when they joined the bloc in 1995.

“It’s part of the Swedish culture, it’s like the Swedish equivalent of Italian Parma ham or any other cultural habit,” said Patrik Hildingsson, a spokesman for Swedish Match, Sweden’s top snus maker, which was acquired by tobacco giant Philip Morris last year.

He said policymakers should encourage the tobacco industry to develop less harmful alternatives to smoking such as snus and e-cigarettes.

“I mean, 1.2 billion smokers are still out there in the world. Some 100 million people smoke daily in the EU. And I think we can (only) go so far with policymaking regulations,” he said. “You will need to give the smokers other less harmful alternatives, and a range of them.”

WHO, the UN health agency, says Turkmenistan, with a rate of tobacco use below 5%, is ahead of Sweden when it comes to phasing out smoking, but notes that’s largely due to smoking being almost nonexistent among women. For men the rate is 7%.

WHO attributes Sweden’s declining smoking rate to a combination of tobacco control measures, including information campaigns, advertising bans and “cessation support” for those wishing to quit tobacco. However, the agency noted that Sweden’s tobacco use is at more than 20% of the adult population, similar to the global average, when you include snus and similar products.

“Switching from one harmful product to another is not a solution,” WHO said in an email. “Promoting a so-called ‘harm reduction approach’ to smoking is another way the tobacco industry is trying to mislead people about the inherently dangerous nature of these products.”

Tove Marina Sohlberg, a researcher at Stockholm University’s Department of Public Health Sciences, said Sweden’s anti-smoking policies have had the effect of stigmatizing smoking and smokers, pushing them away from public spaces into backyards and designated smoking areas.

“We are sending signals to the smokers that this is not accepted by society,” she said.

Paul Monja, one of Stockholm’s few remaining smokers, reflected on his habit while getting ready to light up.

“It’s an addiction, one that I aim to stop at some point,” he said. “Maybe not today, perhaps tomorrow”.