REMARK: Does the Drinking Location Matter?

A little bit more than a year ago, we worked on a project on political youth organisations and alcohol policy.

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 any 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. But, again, quite many organisations put a lot of effort into such a minor issue.

In moving drinking into a pub or a restaurant, the public health argument might be seen in professional servers, who decide when to stop serving to already drunk customers. However, the reality could be the opposite as over-serving add these different harms. Those who have eaten in a restaurant know that one of the things being reminded and asked if they want a refill is the glass of wine.

Last month Inger Synnøve Moan and Geir Scott Brunborg published a new study titled “Alcohol’s Harm to Others: Does the Drinking Location Matter?”. The study, which data stem from surveys conducted in the five Nordic countries in 2015, measured three types of harm from others’ drinking: verbally abused by, harmed physically by, and experienced a serious argument with someone who had been drinking. And the study found “that higher frequency of drinking in pubs/bars/clubs/restaurants, outdoors and in someone else’s home was associated with increased likelihood of experiencing all three harms.” And they also found that “frequent drinking in one’s own home was weakly associated with experience of harm.”

Now, of course, it doesn’t mean that drinking at home is somehow safer. The point is that the hope of drinking out being somehow safer is not supported by any evidence.

Lauri Beekmann,
Executive director, NordAN