Alcohol Policy in Sweden and Finland: Challenges for the Future

By Kurzer, Paulette | Scandinavian Review, Autumn 1998 | Go to article overview

Alcohol Policy in Sweden and Finland: Challenges for the Future


Kurzer, Paulette, Scandinavian Review


Ask any Swede and Finn of a certain age how he or she feels about alcohol and the answer will dwell at length on the destructive drinking habits of their compatriots. According to this view, Nordic people consume hard liquor in excessive quantities in order to get drunk. Whatever the original explanation for why Finnish or Swedish people appear to have an unhealthy attitude towards drinking, social reformers in the early 20th century clamored for strong restrictions on drinking. After 1945, Finland and Sweden created state monopoly systems to control every aspect of the alcohol trade. State retail stores sold liquor to consumers and a state production company manufactured distilled spirits and imported alcoholic beverages from abroad. In Sweden, Systembolaget was the only legal purveyor of strong beer, wine, and liquor while Vin och Sprit produced and marketed distilled spirits, imports, and set prices for all alcoholic beverages. In Finland, Alko controlled production, distribution, and retail of alcoholic beverages. After temperance ideology lost its power in the 1960s, the Swedish and Finnish authorities relied upon two basic tools to discourage excessive drinking while promoting light alcoholic beverages. A restricted number of retail outlets with limited opening hours inhibited spur of the moment shopping trips and extraordinarily high excise taxes discouraged unplanned purchases.

By all accounts, Finnish and Swedish alcohol control policies have been a great success. In 1988 alcohol consumption in Sweden stood at 5.3 liters of pure alcohol per person and in Finland at 7.6 liters of pure alcohol per person. Denmark, which never created a state monopoly system and only taxed liquor highly, consumed 9.4 liters of pure alcohol per person in 1988. Moreover, most Finnish and Swedish consumers have abandoned distilled spirits. In 1990, spirits accounted for 36% of total consumption of 100% alcohol in Finland and 33% in Sweden. Beer became the most popular alcoholic drink sometime around the mid-1970s in each country.

European Union and Alcohol Control Policies

It was clear from the beginning that a state monopoly on every aspect of the liquor trade was incompatible with European Union membership. Commercial state monopolies contradict Community law because of its alleged interference in foreign trade. At a more basic level, the European Union was confused about why alcohol monopolies were considered such powerful instruments in the war against drinking and alcoholism. European member states and the European Commission in Brussels held very different views on alcohol and its role in society than Finnish and Swedish policy officials. The European Commission defines alcohol either as an industrial or agricultural product. Beer, including strong ales and porters, is treated like a soft drink because taxation is so low that it is not subject to regulation anywhere in the European Union. Wine is considered an agricultural commodity and falls under the Common Agricultural Policy. Since it costs a small fortune in tax payers' money to store wine surpluses and to subsidize marginal wineries, the Commission actively promotes wine consumption.

Distilled spirits are regarded as an alcoholic beverage but the Commission is loath to issue restrictive rules in this area because the liquor business is controlled by giant international corporations, which are well-organized. The lobby group of the large liquor companies, the Amsterdam Group, warned the Commission in 1992 that it employed 650,000 people directly and another 1.5 million people indirectly. It follows that the Commission is reluctant to take on the international liquor trade, which in any event, does not provoke strong feelings one way or the other in Brussels.

Negotiations with the Commission

To comply with Community law, Swedish and Finnish parliaments passed new alcohol acts in 1994. The 1994 Alcohol Act demonopolizes the production, wholesale distribution, and foreign trade of alcohol while the retail sale of alcoholic beverages stays under the control of a state company. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Alcohol Policy in Sweden and Finland: Challenges for the Future
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.