Finland

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6 embassies made an unprecedented intervention in Finland

When NordAN writes a letter to the ministry or a minister or parliament members of any of the countries in our region, we do so in close cooperation with our national member organisations, aiming to support the evidence-based alcohol policies and advocate for the public health arguments.

But what to think if other countries would act similarly?

Finnish media has brought to light that embassies of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Portugal and Spain signed a joint letter commending the Finnish government for the new Alcohol reform. The ambassadors state that the reform will help the European single market to function better. “We welcome the liberating changes made to the amended act and therefore acknowledge that these changes should provide comfort to producers, importers as well as to the distribution sector in Finland.”

The biggest and main issue in the Alcohol reform is the proposal that drinks with as much as 5.5 percent alcohol would be available in licensed shops, up from the current limit of 4.7 percent.

According to the ministry of health, this is the first occasion when an ambassador of another country takes a position on Finnish law. The letter was freely available, as all other letters and statements at the ministry´s website, but was removed after one of the ambassadors asked for it.

Based on the National Institute for Health and Welfare calculations this change will bring additional 150 alcohol-related deaths and 1500 hospital admissions a year. Which means that Finland has important public health motive to keep the current regulation and ambassadors endorsement to the planned change that in their view will “provide comfort to producers” is more than awkward and problematic.

It is also important to remind that the existence of Nordic government monopolies is protected by the Alcohol Action Plan of WHO Europe which states that concerning alcohol availability one of the options for action is to “Strengthen existing laws and regulations to reduce the density and opening hours of alcohol sales outlets, and, where they exist, maintain a government retail monopoly.” And this action plan, on the other hand, is adopted by all of the countries that these ambassadors represent.

True, the new Alcohol reform in Finland does maintain the role of Alko but it clearly decreases and weakens it.

Read the full letter from Uusi Suomi (letter in English is in the end part of the article).

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