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  • Lauri Beekmann

Focus on children and families in alcohol policy decisions


16.03.2023 - Alcohol policy aims to reduce the problems and harm caused to alcohol users, their loved ones, others and society. There is strong research evidence that restricting access to alcohol is the most effective way to reduce consumption and harm.


Currently, the trade sector is pushing hard to increase availability by requiring wines to be sold in grocery stores. According to expert estimates, the change would potentially bring spirits into grocery stores, as the basis of Alko's exclusive distribution system would crumble.


- Alcohol consumption puts the health of more than half a million Finns at risk and, for example, 70 000 children live in homes with a serious substance abuse problem. In 2021, 11 210 children were taken into care. Parental substance abuse is one of the most common reasons for taking a child into care, says Tuomas Kurttila, Executive Director of The Helsinki Mother and Child Home Association.


The big question for Finnish alcohol policy is what responsible decision-makers do in the light of these figures.


Increasingly commonplace drug use is a threat to children's well-being

Parents consume a significant proportion of all alcohol consumed. Around three quarters of alcohol consumed is drunk at home. Alcohol is a substance that affects functioning and emotional regulation in many ways.


- In any decision affecting children, the best interests of the child must be the primary consideration. Children's interests are examined through a child impact assessment. Alcohol policy decisions have a fundamental impact on children's lives. It is therefore essential that a careful child impact assessment is carried out on alcohol policies and that the results are taken into account in decision-making," says Esa Iivonen, Senior Expert at the Mannerheim Child Protection League.


A parent's alcohol consumption affects his or her everyday behaviour, the child's basic sense of security and family life as a whole. From the point of view of the child's well-being, substance abuse by a caring adult is child abuse. Abuse includes repeated and persistent lack of care and daily routines, emotional presence and neglect. Constant worry and stress make learning difficult and prevent the child from living a carefree child's life. The child's physical, psychological, social, cognitive and biological development is disrupted.


- The disruptive behaviour of the alcoholic and the discord in the family caused by the drinking is, from the child's point of view, a more significant problem than the drinking itself. Physical violence has been found to be common in the behaviour of parents with alcohol problems. Violence can be between spouses or even against children. Even more common is psychological violence, which can leave long and deep wounds," says Elina Kekkonen, a special expert at the Finnish Child Welfare Association.


A parent's alcohol consumption affects his or her everyday behaviour, the child's basic sense of security and family life as a whole. From a child welfare perspective, substance abuse by a caring adult is child abuse. Abuse includes repeated and persistent lack of care and daily routines, emotional presence and neglect. Constant worry and stress make learning difficult and prevent the child from living a carefree child's life. The child's physical, psychological, social, cognitive and biological development is disrupted.


- The disruptive behaviour of the alcoholic and the discord in the family caused by the drinking is, from the child's point of view, a more significant problem than the drinking itself. Physical violence has been found to be common in the behaviour of parents with alcohol problems. Violence can be between spouses or even against children. Even more common is psychological violence, which can leave long and deep wounds," says Elina Kekkonen, a special expert at the Finnish Child Welfare Association.


Alcohol is not primarily an economic issue. Alcohol is one of the most significant causes of social and health problems in families with children, and the costs of addressing alcohol-related harm in child and family services are already enormous. The most effective and efficient way to prevent alcohol-related harm is through regulation. Alcohol policies that promote moderate drinking ultimately reduce the need for remedial action and protect children from the harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption.


Policy makers should focus on improving the well-being of children and families. Responsible alcohol policy is an important factor in this.


Signatories: Helsingin ensikoti ry, Lastensuojelun Keskusliitto, Mannerheimin Lastensuojeluliitto, A-klinikkasäätiö, Syöpäjärjestöt, Suomen Ash ry, Ehkäisevä päihdetyö EHYT ry ja Ehkäisevän päihdetyön järjestöverkoston lapsityöryhmä.


Source: EPT-verkosto


The parliamentary elections will be held in Finland on 2 April 2023

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