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  • Lauri Beekmann

Coalition urges Icelandic government to prioritize public health over online alcohol sales

Breiðfylking forvarnarsamtaka ræðir við ráðherra um lýðheilsu og ólöglega netsölu áfengis
From left to right: Aðalsteinn Gunnarsson and Björn Sævar Einarsson from IOGT, Árni Einarsson from Education and Prevention - an interest group for prevention and health promotion, Árni Guðmundsson from the Parental Association Against Alcohol Advertising, Hildur Helga Gísladóttir from SAFF - Collaboration of Preventive Associations, and Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir, the Minister of Justice.

21.03.2024 - On March 14, 2024, a coalition of Iceland´s preventive organizations met with the Minister of Justice to emphasize the importance of public health over the market-driven online sale of alcohol. The meeting included representatives from various organizations such as IOGT Iceland, the Parental Association Against Alcohol Advertising, and the Collaboration of Preventive Associations (SAFF), who have previously organized a symposium on public health and alcohol in February 2024.

The coalition expressed concerns about the illegal online alcohol sales that deliver products to consumers within 30 minutes from a local warehouse, bypassing the state's retail monopoly, ÁTVR. The Minister of Justice had previously confirmed to the parliament in December 2023 that such sales are illegal, undermining public health policies and the existing legal framework designed to minimize alcohol-related harm by controlling access through ÁTVR's monopoly.

Despite the Minister of Justice's indication of a potential legislative change to legalize these online sales and possibly dismantle ÁTVR's monopoly, the organizations firmly opposed such a move. They argued it contradicts the public health policy goals set for 2030, aiming to position Iceland among the leading nations in public health efforts, based on scientific evidence and experience.

Highlighting the effectiveness of the state monopoly and pricing policy as primary preventive measures against alcohol abuse, the coalition referenced WHO's recent communication to the health minister, advocating for the maintenance of evidence-based alcohol policies. They stressed that legalizing online sales would compromise these objectives, as well as Iceland's reputation within the EEA/EU framework for prioritizing public health over market liberalization.

Additionally, the organizations raised concerns about the targeting of online alcohol sales towards young people and the elderly, potentially undermining the significant progress made in youth prevention through "The Icelandic Model." This model combines restricted alcohol access with robust recreational and sports programs.

The meeting concluded with the organizations presenting documents to the Minister of Justice and issuing a challenge to parliament members to protect public health and ÁTVR's retail monopoly on alcohol. The situation remains tense, with no immediate legislative action anticipated, as both the Minister of Health and key parliamentary figures oppose the legalization of online alcohol retail, highlighting the ongoing struggle to align national policies with public health priorities.

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