Danish Health Reform postpones plans to raise alcohol age limit

An agreement for the Danish health reform was presented by the government on Friday with the backing of a parliamentary majority. Earlier health proposals by the government related to additional restrictions on tobacco and alcohol sales do not form part of the agreement announced.

Negotiations over those proposals will take place separately, Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said.

“Next week we will open negotiations on the remaining elements relating to prevention (of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption). It was the right thing to do to split things up because we got this broadly-supported agreement,” he said.

The Danish Cancer Society reacts sharply to these announcements from Christiansborg. “We are keeping a close eye to ensure that the level of ambition is maintained,” says CEO Jesper Fisker.

It is bad news if politicians at Christiansborg miss a historic opportunity to protect children and young people from harmful smoking and drinking. A health reform without a strengthened prevention effort can only be seen as a major disappointment.

“To put it bluntly: it is too vague if health politicians cannot reach agreement and seize the opportunity. They can write Danish health policy history with measures that will significantly improve public health and save lives,” said Danish Cancer Society CEO Jesper Fisker.

The government has proposed a gradual phase-out of nicotine products for the 2010 generation. The government also wants to raise the age limit to 18 for the sale of all alcohol. Smoking is known to be the major cancer killer, just as alcohol is a cause of cancer and a number of other serious diseases. So from a public health perspective, the proposals make a lot of sense, says Jesper Fisker.

“The Danish Cancer Society supports virtually all the proposals, as do voters, as we know from a representative opinion poll. I note that the government maintains its proposals for prevention, based on the proposal for an age limit of 18 years and a gradual phase-out of nicotine products for the 2010 generation, and we are keeping a close eye on whether the level of ambition is maintained and translated into concrete measures – even if it will, unfortunately, be in an independent negotiation process,” says Jesper Fisker.

“Smoking is the biggest killer, with 13,600 deaths a year in this country. With the vision of a nicotine-free generation, there was finally a prospect that this sad trend could be reversed. And the proposal to stop selling alcohol could lead to a significant change in the violent and unhealthy drinking culture of Danish youth. I sincerely hope that politicians will continue the important negotiations in a new, constructive track,” he states.