According to the results of a study of the Estonian alcohol market and consumption commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and conducted by the Institute of Economic Research (EKI), Estonian residents' alcohol consumption increased 0.7% last year to 10.3 litres of absolute alcohol per adult.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, institute director Marje Josing said that a growth of 0.7% effectively means that there was no change on the market, and that the market is quite stable.
Averaged across all residents of Estonia, including minors, the indicator totalled 8.62 litres of absolute alcohol per resident, remaining unchanged compared to 2016, the ministry said.
Of the 10.3 litres of absolute alcohol consumed per Estonian resident aged 15 years or older last year, 3.6 litres was strong liquor, or 2.7% less than the year before. The amount of vodka bought fell 5% to 2.2 litres, while the amount of beer grew 24% to 4.3 litres, of grape wines by 4.6% to 1.8 litres and of other low-alcohol drinks by 0.4% to 0.6 litres.
The domestic market has declined from 15.6 litres of absolute alcohol per adult to 13 litres. Illegal sales have remained at 0.5 litres. The amount of alcohol purchased abroad, meanwhile, has grown from 0.8 to 2.6 litres of absolute alcohol per adult.
In comparison, the amount of alcohol purchased in Estonia fell from 5.5 litres of absolute alcohol in 2016 to 4.6 litres.
According to EKI's calculations, alcohol purchased abroad, primarily in Latvia, amounted to 2.6 litres of absolute alcohol per adult resident last year. The consumption data can also be influenced by Latvians and Finns buying alcohol from stores located on the Estonian-Latvian border.
Alcohol policy a multipronged approach
"Estonian residents' level of alcohol consumption is too high, and all opportunities to reduce this consumption are important," Josing commented. "The state's alcohol policy is like a toolbox that includes many tools, and raising the price [of alcohol] via excise duty rates is just one tool of alcohol policy."
It is now clear that this particular measure has exhausted itself, she continued, as the large disparity in prices between Estonia and Latvia gave rise to significant border trade. More attention has to be paid to other alcohol measures for reducing consumption.
"Consistent implementation of an integral alcohol policy is necessary to reduce alcohol consumption, and that is what we are doing," said Deputy Secretary General on Health Maris Jesse.
As of 1 June, changes to alcohol advertising took effect to reduce the attractiveness of such commercials, she noted. In addition, the state has expanded treatment opportunities and is implementing measures in other fields of alcohol policy.
Editor: Aili Vahtla