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Govt plans long and winding road to vodka shop

Mees jäi ilma rahast ja alkoholist. Pilt on illustratiivne. PHOTO: Arvet Mägi/Virumaa Teataja

Yesterday, social ministry presented alcohol market report ordered from Estonian Institute of Economic Research (EKI) in 2014 underlying dominating trends, attitudes and observations in the domain of drinking.

EKI director Marje Josing said it’s positive that consumption of alcohol is not up year-on-year, rather down a bit. «Despite of wages rising more rapidly than price of alcohol, people have not begun to consume more,» she said.

Ms Josing noted the obvious impact of increased interest towards recreational sport, enhanced awareness of healthy lifestyles, and altered values.

As revealed by the study, an adult inhabitant last year consumed an average of 11.7 litres of absolute alcohol. Of amount consumed, 62 percent were low-alcohol beverages and 38 the strong kind. At that, illegal alcohol market shrunk as well.  

According to Ms Josing, EKI would have expected a sharper decline as in nations like Finland and Sweden consumption of alcohol has diminished faster. «That’s largely because they are only able to obtain strong alcohol from stores prescribed for that, not from supermarkets and grocery stores,» she noted.

Main governmental plan

Meanwhile, intake of alcohol by tourists staying in Estonia has increased over the years. Of alcohol sold in Estonia and on board of ships, tourists bought 38 percent.

«The accommodated tourists stay in Estonia longer, thus alcohol consumption on location is up, and foreign tourists – mainly Finns – are buying booze in big quantities to take home,» said Ms Josing.

At the press event yesterday, health and labour minister Rannar Vassiljev pointed out three methods to further curb and cut consumption of alcohol. «Definitely, we must pay attention to price, accessibility and to all things marketing,» he said.

As pointed out by Mr Vassiljev, 86 percent of inhabitants of Estonia will spend under 10 minutes to reach the closest liquor store. He thinks that time span must definitely be lengthened.  

Ms Josing said alcohol ads ought to be restricted. Ideally, these would be informative, and not wooing to consume. «Advertisements might be at alcohol sales points, because TV and media affect the younger generation to consume,» said the EKI director, adding that via ads the youth will be shaping their brand preferences and will link alcohol to lifestyle.

The alcohol market is reckoned according to balance sheet i.e. the volume produced, the amount exported and consumed.  

This year, in six months, €105m has been collected, amounting to 43.9 percent of 2015 budget: at the end of 2014, sellers accumulated large inventories of strong alcohol at the old excise.

«Last year’s production went into warehouses i.e. as in New Year the excise rose, excise was paid at end of last year. Now, they are selling strong alcohol at last year’s excise,» said Ms Josing, adding that due to this the strong alcohol prices are lover till today.  

Excises rising

Mr Vassiljev said that excise rise is sure to continue as it is important that Estonian alcohol consumption would decline further. «The main aim of excise rise is to make the goods dearer so as to be difficult to access by consumers,» said he.

The study probed a representative sample of adults in Estonia. In the opinion of respondents, alcohol-related problems are very serious. What they consider an issue of utmost urgency is drunk driving, as followed by health problems and drinking among kids and youth.