Estonian parlt considers measures to restrict availability of alcohol

Alkohol kaupluses.

PHOTO: Teet Malsroos / Õhtuleht

Members of the Estonian parliament's social affairs and finance committees found at a joint meeting on Monday that more efficient measures are called for to restrict the accessibility and advertising of alcoholic beverages.

"The target of Estonia's alcohol policy is to reduce per-capita consumption from 10 liters of pure alcohol a year to eight liters. This calls for the implementation of various different measures starting from restriction of the availability of alcohol and ending with limiting advertising. An especially big concern is the accessibility of alcohol to minors. Today's hearing resulted in the understanding that different stakeholders are of one mind that more efficient alcohol policy measures need to be taken and it's time to begin taking also political decisions especially as far as the availability and advertising of alcohol is concerned," chairman of the social affairs committee Margus Tsahkna was quoted as saying by the parliamentary press service.

"The issues raised in the Green Book on alcohol policy are topical throughout the world. When reading it I was astonished to find out that there are 195 alcohol sales points per 100,000 population in Estonia compared with only 6.5 in Finland, 5.1 in Norway and 4.5 in Sweden. In Estonia more than 10 liters of pure alcohol has been consumed annually per head of population in the past decade whereas the World Health Organization says that even consumption of more than six liters is clearly detrimental to health. The finance committee can influence alcohol policy through excise duties. One of the aims of the Green Book, to raise the excise duty on alcohol by 5 percent a year in the next four years, has already been written into law, but the debate on duty rates will certainly continue," head of the finance committee Sven Sester said.

One of the authors of the report, chief specialist at the Social Affairs Ministry's public health department Triinu Taht, pointed out that excessive drinking is one of the principal reasons for premature death, injuries and illnesses in Estonia and a key factor in men's shorter life span. According to a WHO report released in 2012, alcohol is the cause of death of 12 percent of women and 28 percent of men aged 15-64.

The Green Book names restriction of the accessibility of alcohol, limiting advertising and raising excise duty as the principal measures to reduce overall consumption.

Reports were presented also by the director of the National Institute for Health Development, Maris Jesse, head of the Institute of Economic Research Marje Josing, and representatives of the Association of Estonian Breweries, the Association of Alcohol Producers and Importers, and the Estonian Temperance Union.