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Finns Party wants strong beer, not wine, in shops

Finland’s alcohol laws are under discussion, with several parties proposing changes to current restrictions. The National Coalition wants to see wine in grocery stores—but the Finns Party would only allow booze weaker than 8.5 percent in supermarkets.

Alkoholijuomapakkauksia Alkon hyllyssä.
Stronger booze has to be sold at state-owned Alko stores. Image: Jesse Maidell / Yle

Finland’s government parties are considering their stances on alcohol laws, and they’ve come up with differing policies on how they might change. The urban, centre-right National Coalition would like to see wine on supermarket shelves—a big change from current policies that restrict sales in grocery stores to beverages containing less than 4.7 percent alcohol.

Stronger drinks must be sold at state-owned Alko stores.

The Finns Party, meanwhile, has come up with a different policy that reflects its more populist support base. They would like to see stronger beers and ciders in supermarkets, but nothing stronger than 8.5 percent.

"The Finns Party wants to free up alcohol policies," said Finns Party Parliamentary group chair Sampo Terho. "Strong beers, ciders and long drinks (a gin-based Finnish alcopop) are welcome on store shelves as far as we’re concerned."

In addition, the party would allow supermarkets to sell beer from 7am until 11pm at night, a considerable liberalisation from the current 9am-9pm laws. Restaurants and bars should get some help via the tax system, according to the Finns Party, with alcoholic drinks subject to a reduced VAT rate of 14 percent, down from the current 24 percent.

The party would also allow more marketing and advertising of alcohol, and permit domestic producers to sell their wares online to foreign customers.

"Getting quality domestic beers onto supermarket shelves is our goal," said Finns Party MP Ritva Elomaa.

The party reckons that this package of measures would improve employment.

New rules on alcohol sales are due to come into force in January 2017.

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