NordAN letter of concern urges protection of Finland's alcohol retail monopoly
19.05.2023 - In a crucial moment for Finland's alcohol policy, discussions are underway regarding possible changes to the country's alcohol retail monopoly. The topic of contention revolves around the proposal to allow wine sales in grocery stores, which has ignited a fierce debate among politicians and stakeholders. Some politicians even consider the long-term dismantling of the entire retail monopoly system. These considerations have prompted the Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network (NordAN) to issue an international appeal to Finnish politicians.
The letter, sent to the political parties currently negotiating for the potential new Finnish government coalition, emphasizes the deep concern over the ramifications of altering the alcohol retail monopoly. The Nordic Alcohol Policy, of which the monopoly forms a crucial part, is recognized for its advanced and effective alcohol policies, playing a vital role in the public health and welfare state model of the Nordic countries. Any changes to this policy, particularly modifications to the monopoly, can potentially undermine the Nordic welfare state model, impacting Finland and the wider Nordic region.
The monopoly system, which has been praised globally, serves as a preventive measure to control alcohol availability, limit excessive consumption, and mitigate the social and health harms associated with alcohol abuse. Doing so contributes to the broader goals of promoting public health, ensuring social stability, and reducing inequality. The system also enables the government to control alcohol marketing and sales, protecting vulnerable groups such as youth and those prone to alcohol addiction. Furthermore, the revenue generated by the monopoly system can be reinvested into public services, further supporting the objectives of the welfare state.
Potential changes to Finland's alcohol retail monopoly would affect the nation and have regional implications. Finland's move away from the monopoly would send ripples throughout the Nordic region, where other countries also maintain alcohol retail monopolies. These countries have experienced reduced alcohol-related harms through this system. A shift in Finland's policy could set a precedent, trigger debates, and potentially lead to similar changes in other Nordic countries, thus risking the entire Nordic Alcohol Policy framework.
Moreover, the Nordic countries' unity in alcohol control has been a significant strength, allowing them to present a united front in global health discussions. A departure from the shared Nordic Alcohol Policy could dilute this collective voice and undermine the cooperative Nordic approach in broader international health and social policy arenas.
The international appeal to Finnish politicians highlights evidence from various countries, underscoring the importance of the alcohol retail monopoly. Studies from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) demonstrate the efficacy of the current system in reducing alcohol-related harm and protecting public health. Research from Denmark reveals the challenges associated with increased alcohol availability in grocery stores, resulting in higher levels of youth drinking and difficulties in enforcing age restrictions effectively. Experiences from Eastern European and Baltic countries further demonstrate the link between higher alcohol availability and increased consumption and related harms.
The potential consequences of dismantling the alcohol retail monopoly in Finland are significant. Increased alcohol availability could reverse the progress in reducing alcohol-related harms and expose youth to more significant risks. Enforcing the minimum legal age for purchasing alcohol could become more challenging, undermining efforts to protect young people. Moreover, increased alcohol consumption could worsen social problems such as family violence and drunk driving, impacting individuals, families, and communities.
As Finland's political parties continue their negotiations for the potential new government coalition, the appeal from NordAN urges them to consider the evidence and possible outcomes carefully. It emphasizes that decisions should be evidence-based, focusing on reducing the harmful impact of alcohol consumption on public health, society, and the economy in the long term. The letter reminds politicians that the choices made in Finland will resonate across the Nordic region. It encourages them to preserve the Nordic Alcohol Policy, ensuring the continued success of the welfare state model and safeguarding the health and well-being of their citizens.
A longer background document submitted to Finnish politicians