Government focuses on price hikes in war against alcohol consumption

Photo: Postimees/Scanpix
8/5/2015 1:50 PM
Category: Society

Currently the average Estonian consumes 9.9 liters of pure alcohol each year, and that figure has remained stable the past five years. Now the government is aiming to cut that to 8 liters, choosing price hikes as the main weapon.

Nordic countries, including Finland, where consumption is lower, have opted for a wider range of measures such as cutting the number of shops which sell alcohol. Estonia has 200 stores selling alcohol per 100,000 people, that figure is 6 in Finland. The minimum age for buying alcohol is 20 in Finland, but it is 18 in Estonia. Sweden has gone even further and it has lower consumption rates than Finland.

Marje Josing, head of the Institute of Economic Research, said stability in consumption figures is welcome, considering that salary increases have outpaced alcohol price hikes.

She said that Finnish studies show 10 percent of the population drinks 50 percent of the alcohol.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is aiming to cut consumption to 8 liters by 2020, and has outlined three methods in increasing the price of alcohol through tax, limiting access, and limiting advertizing and marketing.

The focus is on tax as there is no plan to increase the legal drinking age or limiting the number of stores which sell hard liquor.

The cheapest way to get the maximum amount of alcohol is strong beer, but the ministry is vary about banning such drinks. “The price is the most important factor in strong beer, as those who buy it, are skilled at calculating that it is the cheapest method to achieve their aims. It is a clear case of excise duty,” Health and Labor Minister Rannar Vassiljev said.

He said alcohol sales to drunk people is prohibited and the state should do more to get that message to stores.

The ministry has proposed banning alcohol ads which link drinking with lifestyles, and the proposal is expected to reach the government in the fall.

Tax on alcohol will increase by 10-15 percent each year starting from the beginning of the current year until 2019.

J.M. Laats

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