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January 4 , 2021

Last week we ended our "year in review" tour with June, so we will now continue with the next six months, starting from July. 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.

JULY
Sweden calls on Denmark to lower the alcohol limit
In 1990, the Swedes lowered the limit for how much alcohol you can have in your blood when driving a car, from 0.5 per mille to 0.2 per mille. Secretary-General of Sweden's response to the Council for Safe Traffic, NTF, Marie Nordén told TV 2: "I would recommend Denmark to lower the limit. If you have a limit of 0.5 per mille, people may think it is okay to drink a beer or two and then drive. With this limit, we say you can not drive if you have been drinking."

Calls to Danish politicians: Ban alcohol on young people under 18 years of age
Politicians are holding back when it comes to doing something about Danish alcohol culture, reports DR. This is the opinion of a number of organizations that are now coming up with a call for politicians. The purchase of all kinds of alcohol, and thus also beer, should be banned for young people under 18, and there are no scientific reasons to wait.

Sales at Vinmonopolet are skyrocketing, but Norwegians no longer drink
"Vinmonopolet's sales have increased after the corona outbreak, about as expected considering that cross-border trade and tax-free on ferries and that airports have stopped almost entirely for a while," said communications manager at Vinmonopolet, Jens Nordahl.
He said that there has also been a significant reduction in serving at restaurants, bars and cafes in recent months, NRK reported. 
At the same time, according to a survey by Opinion, two out of ten answered that they drink less now than before the pandemic. Only one in ten respondents say they drink more than before.

Norway: Strong lobby pressure for beer at the petrol station
Virke Servicehandel, which represents kiosks and petrol stations, has tried to get politicians involved in a new opening: Beer sales at petrol stations. The Progress Party has been saying that it is entirely natural to allow beer sales at kiosks and petrol stations, Nettavisen reports.

Sweden: No increased alcohol consumption in the country during the corona pandemic
Systembolaget's sales in the last six months have increased by almost 30 million litres compared to the previous year's corresponding period. But despite Systembolaget's increased sales, it should not be due to increased consumption in the country, Sverige Radio wrote.
The sales volume should not be about increased consumption among the population, but about reduced travel and fewer visits to restaurants according to Systembolaget's CEO Magdalena Gerger.

 

Estonia has an alcohol problem: Alcohol deaths are on the rise
Statistics show that 509 people died of alcohol-related illnesses last year, a record for the previous ten years, Delfi wrote. These are mostly people of working age, aged 45-64. Last year, the number of people who had to be taken to a sobering house by the police also increased. There were 500 more of them than a year earlier, a total of 15,318. After Midsummer, the Rescue Board announced that more people have drowned in half a year than in the whole last year. By July 7 of this year, 36 had drowned and, according to preliminary data, 22 of them were drunk, more than half.

Conclusion of the Lithuanian study on alcohol consumption: it is necessary to reduce excise duties
The fact that alcohol taxes will come under pressure every time there is a reason to worry about the economy's health became clear by Vilnius University's study. It was tentatively recommended to reduce excise duty on beer by 16%, excise duty on wine by 54%, excise duty on strong alcohol by more than 33% and bring it closer to the level of Polish excise duty, according to a study by Vilnius University researchers on alcohol consumption in Lithuania, reported Verslo žinios.

AUGUST

Another restriction on alcohol in Lithuania will soon come into force: targeting the most drunk
From 1 November, spirits bottled in yoghurt jars and plastic containers larger than 0.2 litres should no longer be available in shops, Delfi reports. "These products are cheap, of poor quality and intended for drinkers," the explanatory memorandum to the Alcohol Control Bill, passed in September 2019, reads.

Latvia: Last year, the mortality of the population from alcohol poisoning or violence decreased
According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, mortality from alcohol poisoning or violence decreased last year. Mortality from alcohol poisoning decreased, reaching 3.8 cases per 100,000 population, which is 1.1 cases less than a year ago, TVNET reported.

Finland: Government can raise alcohol tax for next year - Finns imported last year more soft and less strong drinks from Estonia
The Government can increase the alcohol tax as early as next year, YLE News reported in August. "The increase in the alcohol tax is in the Government's program and will be decided in the budget debate. I have been told that this is coming," said Minister of Finance Matti Vanhanen (center).

Norway: The Conservatives want to lower taxes on beer and wine
The corona crisis has led the Conservative Party's program committee to unanimously support reducing excise duties on alcohol and sugar. The goal is to get rid of cross-border trade, E24 wrote at the end of August. "We have been very restrictive on this in the Conservative Party, but I think the situation now is so different. If you weigh jobs against other issues, then work scales heaviest," says Minister of District and Digitization Linda Helleland, who also heads the Conservative Party's program committee.

Simple efforts made Danish students drink less
Enlightenment and reminders have caused 500 college students to drink 17 per cent fewer times a month, DR reported. The result has been achieved through what is called "nudging". Nudging covers trying to push people in the direction of the desired behaviour. In this case, an email has been sent to 500 students at Aarhus University three times in a month. In addition to receiving a link to the information material three times, the students also received an SMS three times with a reminder of the material.


SEPTEMBER

Denmark: Raise the age limit for buying alcohol

Both the Radicals and the Unity List believe that it is time to end young people's alcohol culture, DR reports. The announcement comes after 22 organizations propose to raise the age limit for buying alcohol from 16 years to 18 years because Danish young people are on the European record as those who drink most often and have most often been drunk. The Radicals want to do away with the fact that in Denmark you can legally buy beer and wine with up to 16.5 per cent alcohol when you are 16 years old according to the party's health spokesman, Stinus Lindgreen.

The Conservatives want to make major changes to alcohol sales in Norway
The Conservative Party's program committee will extend the opening hours at Vinmonopolet, Nettavisen reported in September.  The Conservative Party's program committee presented its proposal for a new party program for the Conservative Party for the period 2021-2025. Among other things, the program committee proposes to extend the opening hours for Vinmonopolet to 8 pm. The committee also proposed that shops should be able to sell alcohol until 11 pm.

Sweden: The government has presented the state budget for 2021
The government is also increasing funding for defence. Increased taxes on alcohol and tobacco will partly finance it. The tax increase's exact design is not clear, wrote Aftonbladet, but a bottle of wine will be around one krone more expensive in 2023, a 75-centilitre bottle of spirits will be "a few kroner" more expensive and a beer just under 25 cents more expensive.

Will Finland receive EU sanctions for preventing distance selling of alcohol or not? MEP and Ministry in a different view
Petri Sarvamaa (Kok), MEP, who is pushing for the lifting of the distance selling ban, announced on Monday that the European Commission considers Finland's distance selling ban illegal, Helsingin Uutiset wrote. However, STM's Board Counselor Ismo Tuominen said that Finland is not in trouble with the EU due to the ban on distance selling of alcohol. "I have personally negotiated with the Commission. The Commission will not take any action against Finland," Tuominen told.

Lithuania: Members of the Seimas re-evaluated according to the reduction of alcohol and tobacco consumption
The National Coalition for Tobacco and Alcohol Control (NTAKK) updated the 2016-2020 evaluation of the members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, Alkas reported. The assessment was prepared based on the votes of the Seimas members on the issues of tobacco and alcohol consumption reduction policy. After evaluating the votes of 152 current and former members of the Seimas of this term, the highest score was given to the Lithuanian Peasants 'and Greens' Union Party (8.2 points out of 10 possible) and the Lithuanian Polish Election Campaign - Christian Families Union Party (7.5 points). The Lithuanian Social Democratic Labor Party (6.4), the Mixed Group of Seimas Members (4.7), the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrat Party (4.7), the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (4.6) and the Liberal Movement Party (1, 9).

 

OCTOBER

Latvia: Collect signatures for permission to consume alcohol in public places during the Covid-19 pandemic
The public initiative portal "Manabalss.lv" was behind the initiative. People behind it explained that alcohol consumption and the keeping of open alcohol packaging are currently prohibited in public places. Still, at the same time, alcohol use is allowed in bars and cafes, where the risk of infection with Covid-19 is much higher, reported TVNET.

ICELAND: According to the budget proposal released at the end of September, excise duties on petrol, alcohol, tobacco and oil will increase by 2.5% next year. 
The alcohol tax is expected to return 20.25 billion ISK to the Treasury next year, whilst the tobacco tax is expected to return 6 billion ISK, and the petrol tax 9.7 billion ISK, The Grapevine reported.


Winefinder is prohibited from selling online wine in Sweden
The Patent and Market Court prohibits Winefinder from marketing and selling alcohol for home delivery to Swedish customers, Accent reported. The online retail company Winefinder, based in Helsingborg, has been selling alcohol online to Swedish consumers for several years. In addition to e-commerce, the business is marketed on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and collaboration with two food retailers. Last year, Mathem ended its partnership with the company. Systembolaget, which believes that Winefinder's activities are illegal and which is behind the lawsuit to the Patent and Market Court, is thus right.

NOVEMBER

Over 800,000 Danes drink too much: How to drop the insignificant units
Alcohol increases the risk of a wide range of diseases, including cancer. Nevertheless, more than 800,000 Danes drink more than the Danish Health and Medicines Authority's recommendations. The Danish Cancer Society has made some tips for you who want to cut down on alcohol intake and 'drop the insignificant units'.

Iceland: Restricting foreign-based online alcohol retailers is better than allowing profit motives into alcohol sales
The proposal to allow online and producer sales of alcohol on Iceland risks clashing with EU-law and the Icelandic Minister of Justice should consider other options, wrote Kalle Dramstad and Emil Juslin, Brussels-based experts on EU alcohol policy. “Reading the recent proposal for changes to the Icelandic alcohol law, we note that public health impacts assessments are incomplete and important alternative policy options are missing. Allowing private profit incentives into alcohol retail sales comes at a well-documented cost to the well-being of individuals, families and local communities. We hope the Icelandic Justice Minister will reconsider and reorient the proposal,” authors write.

No alcohol restrictions current in Sweden
The Swedish Public Health Agency confirms that alcohol can increase the risk in relation to the coronavirus. But no alcohol restrictions are in place, wrote Accent Magazine in the first part of November. Other countries, including Norway, the Netherlands, Vietnam, South Africa, Kenya, Lebanon and Hong Kong, have chosen to either restrict or even ban the sale of alcohol to reduce the spread of infection. But not Sweden. The Swedish Public Health Agency responded to Accents questions: "The Agency's regulations are based on the law passed by the Riksdag last summer... The law has set the framework for what the Public Health Agency has since had the opportunity to prescribe."

Sweden introduces the first restrictions on alcohol serving
Starting from November 20th, it became forbidden for pubs to serve alcohol after 10 pm. Bars can also not be open after 22.30. The ban will apply until the end of February, ABC Nyheter wrote. The idea behind the measure is that bars and restaurants can help spread corona infection and that alcohol reduces judgment, Minister of Social Affairs Lena Hallengren stated at a press conference.

Latvia: Legislation on permission to sell alcohol on the Internet
The deputies of the Saeima Committee on National Economy, Agrarian, Environmental and Regional Policy supported amendments to the Alcoholic Beverages Circulation Law´s third reading, which envisage allowing the retail sale of alcoholic beverages on a website or mobile app, subject to several conditions, TVNET writes. The Commission has previously supported the proposal that small distilleries delivering alcohol purchased or ordered on their website or mobile app to a buyer who may pay in cash, subject to a ban on the supply of alcohol to minors and between 10 pm and 8 am.

MPs propose easing limits on alcohol sales in Lithuania
Lawmakers from the Lithuanian Labour Party have proposed lifting the ban on alcohol sales after 15:00 on Sundays, The Baltic Word reported. Under current laws in Lithuania, introduced by the Farmers and Greens in 2018, alcohol sales in the country are allowed to take place between 10:00 and 15:00 on Sundays and between 10:00 and 20:00 all other days. The lawmakers have now proposed to raise the selling hours on Sunday to 20:00, as the current singling out “is not entirely rational”, according to Labour MP Vytautas Gapšys.

 

DECEMBER
Lithuania: The prime minister spoke about how the working hours of the alcohol trade could be changed
In response to the proposal submitted to the Seimas to renounce the trade in alcohol on Sundays from 3 p.m. insurance, Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė says that this is not a priority at the moment, and restrictions related to alcohol should be reviewed comprehensively. "I really don't think it's the most important issue in life, and I don't think we need to waste time discussing it now. We have repeatedly discussed the comprehensive review of alcohol bans," Šimonytė said to Lietuvos Rytas.

 

Norway: Tax cuts for snus, sugar, beer and wine
The governing parties and the FRP have reached an agreement, Nettavisen reported. The agreement contains reliable support for the Progress Party in several areas. Above all, the FRP receives a large tax cut on goods that are particularly vulnerable to cross-border trade: 
* The tax on beer and wine is cut by 10 per cent.
* The tax on snus is reduced by 25 per cent.
* The tax on sugar and chocolate is removed.

Over 100 professionals and expert groups in public health appeals against Erna Solberg
After cutting taxes on snus, sugar and alcohol, Erna Solberg and the government have stirred up a united Public Health Norway, wrote Aftenposten on December 17. On Friday, she receives a call from heavyweights in the field. “The budget settlement is a setback for public health work. We do not need cheaper sweets, snus or alcohol, what we need are brave and responsible politicians who ensure the future health of today’s children, young people and adults.” This is how a joint letter sent to Prime Minister Erna Solberg, starts. Behind the appeal are over 100 organisations, associations, professionals, experts, health actors and others.

Norway: Virke wants alcohol in kiosks and petrol stations
Virke Servicehandel fears the grocery industry will devour the kiosk and petrol trade. The organization has now gone to the Storting, hoping that the industry would get the right to apply to sell alcohol, Stavanger Aftenbladet reported.

Poll in Denmark: Young people under 18 should not be able to buy alcohol
The vast majority of Danes are in favour of an age limit of 18 for the sale of alcohol, a new survey shows, according to Altinget. Two of the government's support parties would raise the age limit. The Social Democrats have not yet taken a position on the issue, says health spokesman Rasmus Horn Langhoff (S). The survey shows that 72 per cent either entirely or partially agree that an age limit of 18 years should be introduced to purchase alcohol in Denmark. There is support among both red and blue bloc voters. Only 12 per cent of respondents completely or predominantly disagree.

Editor: Lauri Beekmann, 

Executive director, NordAN