Will Finland allow strong beer to grocery shops? (updated)

The Centre Party has suggested it is willing to consider raising the alcohol limit in beers sold in grocery shops as an apparent concession to the other members of the three-party coalition, the Finns Party and the National Coalition Party.

Mikko Kärnä (Centre) revealed in an interview on YLE Radio 1 on Thursday that the party is willing to consider certain measures in an attempt to reduce the personal imports of alcoholic beverages. The ruling parties have thereby edged closer to an agreement on the reform of the Alcohol Act, he added.

Matti Vanhanen, the chairperson of the Centre Parliamentary Group, similarly stated in an interview with Ilta-Sanomat that the party is willing to re-consider its position in regards to strong beers. “We’re weighing up bringing strong beers to grocery shops specifically because it could reduce [alcohol] imports from Estonia,” he explained to the tabloid daily.

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Anne Babb

“The pressure from alcohol industry is pushing the Finnish decision makers to loose their good focus on public health. It seems that individual’s easy access to non ordinary shopping product – alcohol – is suddenly seen important,” Anne Babb, the Finnish NordAN board member commented these developments. “Alcohol is not ordinary product as it causes harm and addiction. All evidence based research shows that limiting availability and pricing correctly in addition to having state monopoly on alcohol sales is best public health protection. The release of stronger alcohol to shops would lead our vulnerable groups to have easier access to it and hence increase sales and harm of alcohol. The trouble is that more alcohol sales provides more customers – exactly the reason why availability must be restricted. The question is: What weighs more, easy access to alcohol and more sales or preventing youth drinking, addiction, violence and harm to others. Our youth drinking has finally gone down- the system works- why to spoil it?” asked Babb, who works as a General Secretary for the International Blue Cross.

“It is the vulnerable people who will suffer more problems. Those who rarely buy alcohol are unlikely to buy much more although the pressure is on as alcohol industry is constantly thinking which groups of people they could target next. The people who consume more alcohol are likely to consume even more if alcohol is easily available- moderate drinking will turn to harmful drinking. Finland has been a global example of good practice on alcohol policy- why do we need to scrap something that is known to work? This is very serious matter- we must choose protecting the public health!,” she said.

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