Year in review – 2020 (Part 1)

The keyword for 2020 is obviously the pandemic. It has changed almost everything, and it really is everywhere. For once, public health is the number one topic for every country, globally. While the economic situation is important, health risks are considered more so. Businesses are closed and some for good. It appears that the air travel might change so that it will never go back to what it was before the COVID-19. Remote working has opened new understandings on how different jobs can be done. NGO-s are no different. We have switched to webinars and digital meetings, saving both our scarce money and the environment. Hopefully, we will make some permanent changes from this experience as well.

But not all has been about COVID-19. In alcohol policy we have seen activity also, some propelled by the pandemic. The following is a brief review of what has happened in the Nordic and Baltic countries in 2020. What media covered and what was discussed in our countries. In most parts, this selection will ignore the different alcohol availability restrictions that were introduced to limit the spread of the virus.


Border trade between Norway and Sweden is growing

Cross-border trade has and will always be an issue for alcohol policies. We have mainly associated it with some particular countries, the most famous between Finland and Estonia. But it affects almost every country. In January CAN (Central Federation for Alcohol and Drug Information) published a new report mapping Norway and Sweden’s border trade. “Our estimate shows that in 2018, Norwegian border trade amounted to approximately 2.7 million litres of pure alcohol,” said Ulf Guttormsson, Head of Department at CAN.
Volume increased by 16% between 2016 and 2018. During 2018, border trade corresponded to 0.62 litres of pure alcohol per Norwegian resident 15 years and older. This amount is more than twice as large as the calculations previously carried out by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

30,000 young Danes have an alcohol consumption that requires counselling or treatment
A new report from the Center for Substance Abuse Research shows that at least 30,000 young people between the ages of 15-25 in 2019 had such a large consumption of alcohol that they needed counselling or treatment, writes Berlingske. It corresponds to 3.8 per cent of the young people in the age group. That’s a slight increase over a previous 2014 study from the centre.
That is “far too large a number”, says Anette Søgaard Nielsen, professor at the Unit for Clinical Alcohol Research at the University of Southern Denmark and former head of Alcohol Treatment in Odense Municipality.

Blue Cross turns 125: More help for children and young people from abusive families
In January, Blue Cross Denmark was celebrating its 125th anniversary and pointed to a possible reason for the youth drinking problem. About 122,000 children grow up in a family with alcohol problems and live with shame, guilt and fear. A third of them risk developing an addiction themselves. It is the negative social legacy that the social assistance organization Blue Cross is trying to remedy in its support centres for children and therapy for young people who have had growing pains in recent years.

More and more liquor flows to Finland from online stores
The amount of alcohol Finns buy from online stores has snowballed during the year, says Customs.
There has not been a clear article in the Alcohol Act on distance selling, which has led to an increase in the amount of alcohol ordered from abroad, reports YLE News.

Juha Sipilä’s Board of Directors pitted a bill on distance selling in December 2018 because the Center and the Coalition Party could not agree on the matter. It was decided to leave distance selling to the case law.

Lithuania wants to limit the daily operation of “alcohol parcels”
The Lithuanian government will curb the operation of so-called alcohol parcels, which is one of the methods used by entrepreneurs in trying to circumvent the restrictions on alcohol trade set in 2017, Apollo reports
Since last September, there have been five “alcohol depots” in Vilnius, where you can buy intoxicating drinks at any time of the day via a special mobile app. The alcohol bottling and storage service is offered by the company “Artimiausias” (“Nearest”), which emphasizes that it does not sell alcohol itself, but cooperates with the company “Žilva”, which has a relevant trade license.
According to the government’s intention, “alcoholic beverages” will continue to be stored, but will not be able to be removed at a time when the sale of alcohol is banned, according to a statement by the Ministry of Economy.

Read further and find next months from NordAN´s Nordic Alcohol Policy Report