NordAN urges Finnish MP-s to think twice before easing alcohol regulations

Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network (NordAN) sent today a letter of concern to Finnish parliament members urging them to „to keep their decisions on the safe side of public health and listen to their own alcohol and public health experts who have warned against“ planned alcohol policy changes.

„Alcohol policy plans that the Finnish government has now sent to the parliament concerns everyone who looks at the issue from public health and alcohol harm perspective,“ said Lauri Beekmann, executive director of NordAN. „Obviously, Finland has currently a stronger alcohol policy than most EU countries and it has a very strong evidence base to support it. But the direction that these changes take is quite unprecedented in the European Union. Every country is building up their alcohol regulations, mostly based on the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy that all States have signed.“

Letter to the MP-s addresses especially the situation between Finland and Estonia. „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.“

Estonia is going through its own alcohol law change process. Among other amendments beer taxes will be raised by 160% by 2020, outdoor alcohol advertising will be banned and alcohol ads (in TV and print media) will be limited to showing only the product that may be presented on single color background, and without sound and visual design elements.

„These changes in Estonia could already in short time be potentially influential also for Finnish situation as alcohol across the sea will be less attractive and Finland will lose a tap of almost free alcohol so close to its borders,“ states NordAN letter.

NordAN network advocates for Nordic alcohol policy model where alcohol retail monopoly systems are important cornerstones. „We are living in a very open world and cross-border issues are influencing every single country. We are also concerned how changes in Alko could influence other Nordic monopolies as economic operators with their vested interests are happy to welcome any changes that have a potential to increase their business. We ask members of Parliament to remember that alcohol is no ordinary commodity and that alcohol-related harm is in fact 100% preventable. But it doesn’t happen by itself. Public health is a result of wise and evidence-based policies,“ Beekmann concludes.