Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Networks (NordAN) project “Changing views on alcohol policy in Nordic countries” (2019) set out to focus on political youth organisations to understand their views on alcohol and alcohol policies.
Already for a few times, political parties in Iceland have been close to dismantling alcohol retail monopoly and advertising ban. In Finland, the parliament adopted a bill that allowed stronger alcohol (up to 5.5%) to grocery stores, and there are ongoing discussions to change the role of Alko. Farm sales are discussed in all Nordic countries, and experts are worried about how that would influence the monopoly systems’ role.
Our project aimed to find out the positions of the political youth organisations, whether they have alcohol policies, and whether these positions differ compared to their political parties.
The project was funded by the Stiftelsen Ansvar för Framtiden (SAFF) and co-funded by NordAN. We want to thank a group of people for their contributions. We are grateful to Nijole Gostautaite Midttun, Arni Einarsson, Emi Maeda, Nina Karlsson, Juha Mikkonen, Kjetil Vesteraas and Stig Erik Sørheim for their participation in preparing the questionnaire. Emi, Kjetil and also Isabelle Benfalk, Filip Nyman, Christian Bjerre and Ulla Britt Jensen for their help with doing the surveys. Lauri Beekmann was the project manager.
While the situation is different between the countries, it is still possible to conclude that alcohol has a low priority for the Nordic countries’ political youth organisations. Organisations either don’t have any positions on alcohol at all, these positions are very superficial, or they are mainly focused on alcohol as an economic issue. That being said, some organisations do consider alcohol as a high priority. Some support the Nordic alcohol policies and are in line with the traditional positions of their political parties. Others, a growing number of organisations, are focused on dismantling the existing alcohol policies. The main target appears to be scrapping the alcohol retail monopoly systems. Another conclusion is that these organisations that have set out to work against the alcohol policy measures are more active than those who say they support these policies.
Twenty-two organisations filled the projects questionnaire. Five from Finland, six from Sweden, five from Norway, five from Denmark and one from Iceland. A few returned only partly filled questionnaires.
It is important to remember that some who gave high scores for alcohol as a priority, expressed support for dismantling the monopoly systems. In other words, for some, the focus on this topic means working against restrictive alcohol policies. In addition to the questionnaires, we turned to their webpages, political programs and broader media coverage. Individual organisations reports bring out the policy positions they have in their political agenda and their actual media activities. Another conclusion emerged from this: with some of the organisations, there is a mismatch between what they state and what they express in real life. An organisation might support a drug-free society and at the same time, favour legalising cannabis.
The overall awareness of alcohol-related harms varies. It is surprising that from one point, organisations that don’t intend to do anything on alcohol might acknowledge that alcohol causes serious harms. On the other hand, some organisations that say they protect public health-oriented alcohol policies, don’t seem to link alcohol with many harms. As the following graph shows, the awareness of alcohol’s link to cancer is not very good.
One of the most unexpected things among the Finnish youth organisations was the near-consensus on “Shifting the focus of alcohol taxation from home use to restaurants.” It was presented not only as a tool for boosting the economy but also as a means to better public health. As there doesn’t seem to evidence to support that goal, it is rather odd to see that a majority of one countries organisations support it. Perhaps somewhat similar is the topic of “drinking in parks” question in Norway. Again, quite many organisations put a lot of effort into such a small issue.
The FULL 90-page project report with country reports can be found HERE