Ncd2014 alcohol policy in finland esaösterberg 110314
Alcohol Policy in Finland
Alcohol and Drugs Unit,
Department of Alcohol, Drugs and Addiction.
Alcohol control strategies
• There are many alcohol control strategies and measures
used for social policy or public health intentions,
– regulating economic and physical availability of alcohol,
– modifying drinking contexts,
– drink driving countermeasures,
– restrictions on alcohol marketing,
– alcohol education and persuasion, and
– treatment and early interventions.
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Some background information
• The first commonly used alcoholic beverage in the
Nordic coutries was beer.
• In towns retailed beer began to be taxed already in
• In the mid-17th century distilled spirits became more
familiar and soon displaced beer.
• Manufacture of spirits was first taxed in 1632.
• There was a Crown distillery system in Sweden from
1776 to 1787. Since then landowners had the distilling
• Home distilling was quite free in the beginning of the
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On the way to prohibition
• Home distillation was prohibited in Finland in 1866 (In
Norway it was prohibited in 1845 and in Sweden ten
• During the second half of the 19th century alcohol
availability was greatly decreased in the coutryside.
• In towns selling spirits according to the so called
Gothenburg principles was the common practice by the
beginning of 1880s.
• In Finland a prohibition bill was passed in 1907 but the
Russian Czar did no authorize it.
• Finland became independent in 1917 and implemented
a prohibition act, which was in force from 1919 to 1932.
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Cornerstones of Nordic alcohol policy
After abolishing prohibition through a referendum, Finland
got a new Alcohol Act in 1932 which rested on three main
pillars regarded as the cornerstones of the Nordic alcohol
1. restrictions on private profit interest in the alcohol business,
2. restrictions on the physical availability of alcoholic
3. restrictions on the economic availability of alcoholic
beverages by means of high alcohol taxation and prices.
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Weakening of the three pillars
• Restrictions on the physical availability of alcoholic
beverages was the first pillar to be eased.
• In the period after the Second World War this
development stemmed purely from domestic reasons.
• Alcohol availability increased especially in 1969 when
the new alcohol act and a special medium beer act
came into force.
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1968 Alcohol legislation
• Retail sales of medium beer (beer up to 4.7 per cent
ethyl alcohol by volumes) was allowed in ordinary
grocery stores and cafes.
• Minimum legal purchase age for off premise retail sales
decreased from 21 to 20 years for distilled spirits and to
18 for beer and wine.
• Monopoly’s liquor stores and licensed restaurants could
be opened all over Finland, ending the so called rural
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Further changes after 1960s
• In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s the physical availability
of alcoholic beverages was further eased through for
instance an increased number of on- and off-premises
and prolonged opening hours.
• Regulations controlling both restaurants and customers
in restaurants have been eased.
• Off-premise liquor monopoly stores were changed from
over the counter stores to self service stores.
• Changes in the Finnish alcohol system have been
motivated also by international reasons.
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Dismantling the comprehensive monopoly
• The comprehensive Finnish alcohol monopoly system
was dismantled in the mid-1990s. It meant dismantling
the production-, import-, export-, wholesale- and on-
premise monopolies. However, off-premise retail sales
monopoly was preserved.
• In the same process Finnish state alcohol monopoly
also lost its right to decide on both off- and on-premise
retail prices of alcoholic beverages as well as its
administrative and alcohol educational tasks.
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Further changes in 1995
• Dismantling the comprehensive alcohol monopoly was
based on the 1994 Alcohol Act.
• This Act also allowed alcohol advertising for wine and
beer which had been banned in 1977.
• Farms producing berry wine and liquors got the right to
sell their wines off the premise in connection to the
• All fermented products up to 4.7 % ethyl alcohol by
volume were allowed to be sold in ordinary grocery
stores, kiosks and gasoline stations.
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Quotas for travelers' alcohol imports
• Before 1995 travellers could only bring in Finland duty
free 1 litre of distilled spirits, 1 litre of wine and 2 litres of
• Already in 1995 in connection with the Finnish
membership in the European Union quotas for travelers’
duty free alcohol import were increased a little both from
other EU countries and third countries.
• Quotas for travelers' alcohol imports within EU were
altogether abolished in 2004. This has increased the
possibility to import large quantities of alcoholic
beverages from other EU countries where alcohol is
cheaper than in Finland.
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Main cross-border trade routes in the Nordic
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Real price indices of alcoholic beverages in
Finland in 1969-2011, 1969 = 100
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1969 1971 1973 1975 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011
On-premise sales Total sales Off-premise sales
Lowering alcohol excise duties in 2004
• Quotas for travelers’ duty free imports from other EU
member states were abandoned 1st January 2004.
• Estonia, some 80 kilometres south of Finland with
much lower alcohol prices than Finland joined the
European Union 1st May 2004.
• Excise duties for alcoholic beverages were lowered in
Finland in 1st March 2004 on the average by 33 per
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Changes in Finnish alcohol excise duties and
alcohol retail prices on March 1st, 2004
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Tax cut, % Change in price, %
Beer 32 13
Wines 10 3
products 40 25
Distilld spirits 44 25
On the average
Excise duty revenues to the state from alcoholic
beverages in Finland in 1996-2010 in million euro
• Alko has the off-premise retail
monopoly on alcoholic beverages
over 4.7 vol. %
• 350 shops, supplemented by over
100 order points.
• Alko is controlled by the Ministry
of Social Affairs and Health.
• Alko's functions and operations are
defined in the Alcohol Act.
• Alko is a responsible seller of
– No sales to intoxicated persons.
– No sales when there’s a reason
to suspect conveying of alcohol.
– No sales to minors.
Finnish alcohol policy
• Apart from Alko, other elements of the Finnish alcohol
policy is also fairly strict:
– Age limits and enforcement
– On-premise licenses.
– Restricted sales hours (9-21, off-premise) and days
(Alko closed on Sundays)
– Alcohol advertising for strong spirits banned, restricted
for milder beverages.
– BAC limits of 0.5 ‰ and 1.2 ‰
Strictness and Comprehensiveness of
Alcohol policy in Europe 2010
Karlsson, Thomas & Lindeman, Mikaela & Österberg, Esa:
Does alcohol policy make any difference? Scales and consumption.
In: Anderson P, Braddick F, Reynolds J & Gual A (eds.) Alcohol Policy in Europe: Evidence from AMPHORA, 2012.
The AMPHORA project, available online:
http://amphoraproject.net/view.php?id_cont=45, Chapter 3 s. 15-23.
Public opinions about alcohol policy
Can not say
• In 2012, 71 % of the respondents thought that the
alcohol monopoly was a good resource in restricting
• 91 % of the respondents were in favour of spirits sales
from the monopoly stores, whereas 64 % of the
respondents favoured wine sales only from the
• Over 80 % of the respondents were also in favour of the
current age limits for off-premise sales of alcoholic
beverages (20 years for spirits, 18 years for wine and
Alcohol attitudes in Finland
Total alcohol consumption in Finland in
litres of 100 % alcohol per capita, 1958-2012
+ 1.3 l
+ 46 %
+ 0.8 l
+ 10 %
+ 0.9 l
+ 10 %
Alcohol consumption in the Nordic countries in
litres of 100 % alcohol per capita, 1961–2009
Denmark Finland Norway Sweden Iceland
Recorded alcohol consumption by beverage
categories as % of total recorded consuption
and in litres of 100 % alcohol per capita in 2012
Total: 7.8 litres
Finnish drinking habits
• It is still rare to combine alcohol use with everyday dining.
For a long time alcohol was only connected with special
March 13, 2014 26
[Mäkelä P, Tigerstedt C, Mustonen H.
The Finnish drinking culture: Change and continuity in the past 40 years.
Drug Alcohol Rev 2012;31:831–840]
• A large part of alcohol
intoxication has an
established position in
social intercourse. Similar
characteristics are found
especially in northern and
Finnish drinking habits
• Since the 1960s, alcohol use has become more
common among women and young people. At the same
time, binge drinking has spread within these groups.
Recently, attention has also been paid to the increasing
use of alcohol among people of retirement age.
However, During the 2000s youth abstinence has
become much more common and drinking for the
purpose of intoxication has also decreased.
• Snce the late 1980s, alcohol use has spread to new
situations, such as cultural, entertainment and sports
events, outdoor restaurant areas, summer festivals and
other outdoor events.
• More drinking take place in peoples homes, together
To sum it up: Consumption
• The Finnish alcohol consumption is at the average
European level, but higher than in the rest of the
• Though, the consumption in many European countries
have decreased for some centuries already, whereas it
has grown in Finland (with the exception of times of
• The beverage preferences have changed – wine on the
rise, distilled spirits have decreased but medium beer
has been the preferred beverage since the beginning of
• Weekend- and binge drinking is common, combined with
“new” drinking environments.
To sum up: Alcohol consumption and related harm
To sum it up: Policy
• The Nordic and Finnish alcohol policies remain strict in a
• However, many alcohol policy measures have been
liberalized both before and after Finland became EU
members in 1995.
• A large part of the Finns are satisfied with the alcohol
policy of today, and the opinions have become less
liberal during the last years.
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