Substance abuse prevention work

Photo: Julia Kivelä

The aim of substance abuse prevention work is to prevent and reduce the harm caused by substance abuse to substance users, their loved ones and society by strengthening protective factors and reducing risk factors, reducing harm, increasing understanding of substance abuse as a phenomena and promoting the rights of substance users. Information on harm caused by substance abuse and tools to prevent their use are produced to city residents. Preventive substance abuse work is carried out both at the basic level of work and in multi-professional expert networks.

Helsinki Substance Abuse Prevention Network

In 2020, the Helsinki Substance Abuse Prevention Network was established. It includes operators of the City of Helsinki and representatives of the voluntary sector and state administration. The activities of the network include processing of topical issues in substance abuse prevention work, exchange of information and the creation of a strong knowledge base for preventive substance abuse work, sharing of good operating models and practices as well as cooperation with universities. The Substance Abuse Prevention Network contributes to the well-being and health of Helsinki residents through its work.

In Helsinki, the City Board acts as the body defined in the Act on Organising Substance Abuse Prevention.

Pakka operating model

The Local alcohol, tobacco and gambling policy model (Pakka) is a Finnish research-based model developed for preventing the harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco use and gambling. Preventative substance use work aims at affecting the demand and availability of substances, and through this, substance use. Pakka work is carried out in close collaboration with municipal wellbeing services aimed at different ages. Pakka work is included in the City of Helsinki Welfare Plan 2022–2025.

Nationally, Pakka work is developed and coordinated by the National Institute for Health and Welfare. The Pakka model focuses on intervening with the availability of alcohol, tobacco and nicotine products and games of chance.

Studies have found that the Pakka model can be used for the following:

  • Improving supervision of compliance with age limits at outlets
  • Reducing availability of alcohol and nicotine products to minors
  • Supporting a substance free lifestyle for minors and affecting the views of residents on underage drinking
  • Reducing serving alcohol to intoxicated persons at restaurants

The Pakka measures implemented in Helsinki include the survey on the state of substance use carried out every other year, and the Terassi-Pakka terrace whose key feature are discussions on responsibility had with the restaurant staff. Companies participating in the Pakka activities is at the core of the work. The owners and employees of restaurants and shops ensure responsible sales through their work.

A Pakka steering group has been established to support Pakka work in Helsinki, and the group includes representatives from the Helsinki Police Department, the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland, and the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention EHYT, in addition to the employees of the City’s departments. In addition to the above parties, the Helsinki region Pakka supply working group includes companies, security companies and a representative of the wellbeing services county of Vantaa and Kerava.

Smoke-Free Helsinki

The City of Helsinki has declared itself a smoke-free city in 2007 and has since then systematically acted to promote being smoke-free and nicotine-free by creating structures and operating models that support being smoke-free and nicotine-free, as well as by implementing measures in accordance with the Finnish Tobacco Act. Helsinki’s preventive substance abuse work network includes the Smoke-Free Helsinki network, which was established after the Smoke-Free Helsinki programme (2007–2015).

The Smoke-Free Helsinki criteria were introduced by a decision of the City Council in 2007.

Smoke-Free Helsinki Network

The network acts as a coordinating expert network to support smoke-free and nicotine-free work. Its task is to support the divisions in preventing and reducing the use of tobacco and nicotine products and strengthening smoke-free environments. It also monitors and reports on the progress of smoke-free and nicotine-free work in accordance with national and municipal targets. In addition, it conveys information and good practices and implements network cooperation between Helsinki’s various divisions and NGOs in preventing and reducing the use of tobacco and nicotine products.

The City’s Environmental Services is responsible for monitoring in accordance with the Finnish Tobacco Act. Tobacco monitoring tasks are mainly based on the Finnish Tobacco Act and the Health Protection Act as well as the regulations issued on the basis of them. In recent years, the number of tobacco monitoring tasks has increased significantly due to changes in the Finnish Tobacco Act.

The key tobacco monitoring tasks are related to supervising the sale of products subject to the Finnish Tobacco Act, smoking prohibitions and restrictions and the advertising of tobacco products. In order to carry out monitoring in accordance with the Finnish Tobacco Act, Environmental Services drafts an annual monitoring plan, according to which monitoring is carried out.

The role of Helsinki’s Environmental Services in the Smoke-Free Helsinki network is to act as an expert in the enforcement of the Finnish Tobacco Act. Since 2020, one of the focus areas of the monitoring plan under the Finnish Tobacco Act has been cooperation with preventive substance abuse work.

Understand and intervene – young people in the midst of vaping

The video provides tips for recognizing the use of electronic cigarettes by young people, informs about the harms associated with the use of vape and nicotine, and encourages people to speak up. The video is intended for professionals working with children and young people and is also suitable for viewing by their family members. The video is part of the work of the Smoke-free Helsinki network. Video: Tussitaikurit Oy / Marker Wizards Ltd

For more help and support on how to quit smoking and the use of nicotine products:

Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare: Quitting smoking

Omaolo: Coaching programme for quitting smoking

The Organisation for Respiratory Health in Finland: Nicotine- and smoke-free life

Maternity and child health clinics

School health care

Student health care