Cheap Alcohol Causes Problems in Scandinavia

A reduction in alcohol taxes has resulted in an increase in alcohol-related violence and drunk-driving offenses in Scandinavia, Reuters reported June 13.

On March 1, Finnish alcohol taxes were reduced by 33 percent when the Baltic countries, including Estonia, joined the EU. Many Finns have been going on “vodka rallies” to Estonia, where supermarkets sell local brands at a cheap price 24 hours a day.

Before Estonia became an EU member, Finns could only bring home one liter of liquor and 16 liters of beer. But the expanded EU enables consumers to import hundreds of liters of alcohol within the free-trade area.

Scandinavians traditionally have engaged in occasional binge drinking. But now many are drinking more frequently as well as heavily. “We haven’t swapped our way of getting drunk on the weekends with continental habits — we have combined them,” Schou said.

Finland and Denmark have cut alcohol taxes to curb cross-border shopping, with Sweden and Norway considering similar measures.

“We are facing a huge dilemma,” Schou said. “When we see what is happening around us, we realize that the Nordic way of braking drinking with taxes and limited access is losing effect. We need to look at new ways to attack the problem.”