Finland relaxes its alcohol policy

Finns will be able to buy beverages with an alcohol content of 5.5 percent - up from the current 4.7 percent - in supermarkets starting next year, as part of a package of amendments aimed at liberalising alcohol consumption. Finnish and Estonian commentators speculate on the consequences of the laxer regulations.

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Eesti Rahvusringhääling (EE) /

Finns will continue pilgrimages to Estonia

Finland's alcohol producers will hardly feel the effect of the liberalisation, the online portal of the Estonian public broadcaster believes:

“The reason why the Finnish government is easing the alcohol policy is of course Estonia. ... Last year Finns brought 72 million litres of alcohol back into the country - roughly corresponding to the annual turnover of 145 [state-run] liquor stores. And most of this alcohol came from Estonia - for the simple reason that it's far cheaper here. ... The bottom line is that people are greedy and want to pay as little as they can for their booze. Even with the new law Finland will have to come to terms with the fact that most drinkers will continue supplying themselves in Estonia. However, the problems that result will have to be tackled by Finnish society.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Finns will drink all the more

Alcohol consumption - and its negative consequences - only stand to rise, Helsingin Sanomat fears:

“Strong beers will certainly replace medium-strength beers to a certain extent, as a result of the price difference between the two. Heavy drinkers are very good at sussing out where they can get the most for their money. And overall alcohol consumption is rising at the same rate as the strong beers are squeezing out the weaker ones. That in turn has a negative impact on public health. According to the Finnish National Health Institute THL, alcohol consumption incurs costs of several billion euros per year. Just for comparison, it is hoped that the reform of the health and welfare system will bring about savings of around three billion euros a year.”

Aamulehti (FI) /

The young are sensible enough

Aamulehti takes a far more optimistic view of the liberalised alcohol laws:

“All the different types of business benefit from the changes: shops, breweries, restaurants, bars, event organisers and specialised farms. ... Now we can only hope that the younger generation, which already has a more healthy lifestyle than the older one in many respects, will be able to exercise restraint despite the euphoria over the liberalised laws. The statistics point to this being the case. ... But at the very latest if the liberalisation leads to a rise in the health and social problems, politicians must be ready to invest in fighting the damage alcohol causes.”