The civic society as well as policy makers, they need facts, they need figures, they need arguments. So I think it is important to put together figures and data on alcohol use and alcohol related harm in the Nordic and the Baltic countries. Now, you can say that these figures are available. You can look at the report from the OECD, WHO etc.
But figures are not always easy to find and perhaps easily comparable. And we want also an aid to figures, aid to data through this report. What is new and what we have good capacity for in the NordAN, is the capacity to do very nice presentations. So this report will be a mix of data, hard facts but also points of view, policy views from various Nordic and Baltic countries. And we hope that this will make it more lively, more user-friendly.
What we put on this website will, of course, be freely available, so you are welcome to steal, lend, borrow and reuse for your own purpose in your country.
Professor Peter Allebeck, president of Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network (NordAN)
Part 1 - January to June
Not all has been about COVID-19. In alcohol policy we have seen activity also, some propelled by the pandemic. The following is a brief review of what has happened in the Nordic and Baltic countries in 2020. What media covered and what was discussed in our countries.
Part II - July to December
The first wave of corona pandemic is slowly calming down, and our societies returned almost to normal. Closed businesses began to open again, and as it sometimes happens, newly found freedom brings some irrational behaviour. As our communities dealt with closings and removed different freedoms, various discussions took place to ensure that our free societies would remain open. Several interest groups also presented suggestions for liberalizing alcohol policies.
Alcohol consumption levels in Nordic/Baltic countries
The Nordic and Baltic region has been an exciting laboratory for everyone interested in alcohol research and policy. With Nordic countries, we have a long and effective experience with WHO recommended alcohol policies and with that one of the lowest alcohol consumption and harm rates in Europe. Baltic countries, understanding the different situation they are coming from, has had one of the highest consumption rates in Europe and thus also in the world and has also struggled with introducing actual alcohol strategies. Within the last few years, a significant change has taken place, and Lithuania and Estonia have adopted new regulations that are now showing the way to rest of Europe. Latvia is also planning further changes that include stronger alcohol advertising limits etc.
Various developments push and pull our countries between the interests of public health and different economic benefits. Take a look at our latest "What has happened since" report which shows the policy process in different countries. Again, both positive and some troubling news.
The NordAN network has focused on 2020 for some years already. Why? Because the WHO Europe's alcohol action plan ends and next steps should be made already. The same situation is on the global level as well. This February, the 146th session of the WHO Executive Board adopted a resolution on Accelerating action to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. Director-General was requested to create an action plan for 2022-2030 to implement a Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol. Nothing concrete, but at least there is a plan. And acceleration.
But as we have seen in our region. These international agreements and papers can, at best help. Local and national political will is what makes a significant difference.