NordAN urged Finnish government to stay with evidence based alcohol policies

NordAN, supported by European Alcohol Policy Alliance Eurocare and a list of different national and international organisations, sent a letter to the Finland´s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Mr Juha Rehula urging “Finland´s government to reconsider plans to change the limits of public monopoly on sales of alcohol by authorizing the right to sell up to 5.5% alcohol at all retail outlets.”

The letter said that these planned changes would bring consequences that the government is definitely not expecting. “The proposed change would increase availability and goes against all findings and principles of public health policies which aim to safeguard and improve the health of citizens and may lead to increased alcohol related harm. But in addition to increasing availability it also reduces Alko’s share of alcohol sales, contributing to weakening their role.”

NordAN aknowledged, together with it´s partners, that there might be challenges that need attention but with these moves Finland would go against all other EU countries which are adopting changes that limit availability of alcohol, among other measures. “While it may be understandable that much weaker alcohol policy in Estonia (low prices and almost limitless availability) and an extent of cross-border trade has caused problems for Finland and reduced the effectiveness of the otherwise proven alcohol policy measures, the timing of these proposed changes cannot come at a more unexpected moment. As Finland is getting ready to move toward liberalization, Estonia is about to adopt the strongest alcohol policy bill in more than two decades. Beer taxes will be raised by 160% by 2020, alcohol availability will be restricted by a total ban on sale at the petrol stations, by introducing separate departments into major food stores with non-transparent walls. Outdoor alcohol advertising will be banned and alcohol ads (in TV, print-media and internet) will be limited to showing only the product that may be presented on single color background, and without sound and visual design elements.”

“Now as the European Commission has decided not to renew its alcohol strategy, it is especially important that Member States fulfil their obligation to tackle alcohol related problems,” the letter concluded.