Monday 30 May 2022

Alcohol policy - theory versus facts

In 2018, Finland relaxed some of its alcohol laws. Notably, it allowed grocery shops to sell alcohol of up to 5.5% ABV. Previously, it had been limited to 4.7% ABV, with stronger beers only available from the state-owned off licences.

This might seem a minor change but it allowed commercial shops to sell standard Finnish beer, which has an average alcohol content of 5.2%.

According to 'public health' ideology, this would be the start of Finns going to hell in a handcart: 

Due to fierce price competition between grocery stores, medium-strength beer has been available for much lower prices in them than in the state stores, while stronger beer only available in state stores has been minimally affected by price competition. Therefore, the reform was not only expected to affect consumption through greater physical availability but also through lowering prices.

It was widely expected in the public health field that the legislative change would increase the demand for strong beer, cider and premixed alcoholic beverages and raise their average alcohol content. 

The policy was subject some intense public debate and a number of MPs were strongly opposed to it, citing expert opinion.

Twenty-eight Members of the Finnish Parliament, including 15 members of the Centre Party, have issued a joint statement calling for amendments to the bill to reform the alcohol legislation of Finland.

... The signatories to the joint statement are demanding that additional emphasis be placed on the views of experts who have expressed their opposition to the reform bill.

“Not one of the expert organisations (18), and not one of the social and health care providers and organisations preventing the adverse effects of alcohol use that issued a statement (11) is supportive of the draft bill,” they point out.

According to Movendi, a gospel temperance group formerly known as the International Order of Good Templars which is bizarrely funded by the Finnish lottery...

The reform is set to have unfortunate consequences for public health in Finland, a country where alcohol consumption is already higher than elsewhere in Scandinavia.

Four years on and we can see what actually happened. According to a new study, the answer is not much at all.
Results: There was no overall change in the total alcohol (0.04 [95% CI −0.03, 0.11] litres/year) or beer purchases (0.05 [95% CI −0.02, 0.11] litres/year). Purchases of ready-to-drink beverages increased by 0.10 [95% CI 0.09, 0.11] litres/year (+ 84%). Total alcohol purchases increased in the three highest income groups, whereas they decreased in the two lowest groups (p for the interaction < 0.0001). 
Conclusions: The increased purchases of alcohol as ready-to-drink beverages were, on the average, compensated for by a decrease in purchases of other alcoholic beverages.

Disaster averted again! 

Meanwhile, evidence that the ridiculous single distribution theory is wrong continues to mount. A study of drinking in Australia in the 2010s has found that everybody in society does not act like a single organism. Who knew?


Throughout the whole population, alcohol consumption had declined in all percentile groups, with the largest proportional declines evident for light and moderate drinkers [e.g. drinkers in the 25th percentile declined by 32.7%; 95% confidence interval (CI) = -41.6, -22.3% per wave]. Broadly collective declines were also found for younger men and women with significant declines in every percentile group, but older groups showed some evidence of polarization. For example, women aged 45–64 years significantly increased their consumption (2.9% per wave, 95% CI = 0.3–5.5%), while consumption for those in the 25th percentile fell significantly (-16.7%, 95% CI = –27.6, -4.2%).


The declines in Australian drinking since 2010 have included important deviations from the collectivity predicted by Skog's influential theory of collectivity of drinking, with markedly different patterns evident among different demographic groups.

How much longer will the temperance/'public health' lobby cling to their daft theories?

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