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Finnish organizations urge: Now is not the time to increase alcohol availability

27.04.2023 - The central element of a welfare state is welfare itself. Therefore, political decision-making should be guided by actions that strengthen and support citizens' safety, health, and well-being. That is why organizations appeal that now is not the right time to increase alcohol availability in Finland.

Alcohol is a substance that affects the well-being and ill-being of Finns in many ways. That is why, in a welfare society, alcohol has not been considered an ordinary food item, and its price and availability should be regulated. Alcohol causes direct harm to individuals, communities, and society as a whole.

At the individual level, the most severe consequence is direct alcohol-related deaths, which amount to 1,700 annually in Finland. In addition, alcohol plays a part in numerous cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health disorders. It is estimated that alcohol is involved in about half of suicides in Finland. During a mental health crisis, it is not the right time to increase alcohol availability.

At the community level, alcohol causes various kinds of harm. The OECD has estimated that alcohol lowers productivity in Western countries by approximately 1% of GDP, which, in Finland's case, amounts to 2.34 billion euros. Alcohol has been studied to cause direct costs of up to 500 million euros in workplaces through absences and reduced work ability. Finland is home to the world's happiest people, yet has over 500,000 high-risk alcohol users. During a sustainability deficit, it is not the right time to increase alcohol availability.

At the societal level, alcohol regulation is part of the basic structure of a welfare society and preventive measures against problems. In Finland, up to 70,000 children live in families where a parent has a severe addiction problem. The adverse effects of alcohol burden shared services such as the police, child protection, and healthcare. During a healthcare crisis, it is not the right time to increase alcohol availability.

A survey by Kantar Public and EHYT reveals that 78% of Finns are satisfied with the current alcohol sales hours and locations. According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)'s Alcohol Policy Opinions 2023 survey, only 12% of Finns want stronger alcoholic beverages to be available in grocery stores, which expert views suggest would result from freeing up wine sales. This raises the question: what problem would be solved by increasing alcohol availability in grocery stores and kiosks? Increasing availability would bring a new set of problems to solve.

The best political choice in maintaining the current system is that it does not cost anything extra. In contrast, the direct negative costs of expanding sales are estimated to be at least 271 million euros. Therefore, the future of the welfare state requires focusing on decisions that enhance people's well-being.

The letter is signed by a list if non-governmental organisations.

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