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Survey: Finns divided on breaking up Alko wine monopoly

Men were more in favour of loosening Finland's alcohol laws than women.

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File photo of white wine bottles. Image: Yle

A survey commissioned by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) found that half the respondents wanted to see wine sold in grocery stores, and not exclusively by state alcohol monopoly retailer Alko.

Under current legislation, drinks with stronger alcoholic content, such as wines and spirits, can only be purchased for off-premises consumption from Alko stores.

"This seems to be a divisive issue," THL specialist Thomas Karlsson told Yle.

In contrast to the selling of wine, the survey found that Finns strongly believe spirits do not belong in grocery stores, as almost nine out of ten respondents considered the sale of spirits to be Alko's exclusive right.

There was also support among respondents for the alcohol-buying age limit to remain unchanged, with 57 percent saying they considered the current alcohol policy restrictions to be appropriate.

Currently, beverages with an alcoholic content of less than 22 percent can be purchased by people aged 18 years or over, while the minimum age limit for products containing over 22 percent alcohol volume is 20 years and over.

This figure has increased from last year’s survey, and "continues the same trend that started in 2018 after the new alcohol law was passed," Karlsson said.

Amendments to Finland’s alcohol legislation were introduced in January 2018, allowing groceries, convenience shops and petrol stations to sell beverages with an alcohol content of up to 5.5 percent. Previously, the limit had been 4.7 percent.

The law change had an immediate impact on Alko’s revenue, with sales down by eight percent in the first month alone.

Gender and drinking habits influence opinions

The survey also highlighted some interesting divisions in opinion along the lines of gender and drinking habits.

In general, the responses to the survey suggested that men more often wanted a looser alcohol policy than women. Almost 70 percent of men were in favour of a more lenient laws on alcohol, while the corresponding proportion among women was less than 20 percent.

Another background factor which influenced attitudes was how much alcohol the individual respondent consumed on a regular basis.

"The more you drink, the looser and more liberal your alcohol policy," Karlsson concluded.

The survey was commissioned by Kantar TNS on behalf of the Department of Health and Welfare and Alko, and was conducted in January 2020 by interviewing a thousand randomly selected Finnish respondents over the telephone.

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