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Thursday’s papers: Looser booze laws, NCP’s backseat drivers and eyes toward summer

Dailies across the country offer curtain-raisers on looser alcohol laws,signs of cracks in the National Coalition Party and attempts to predict summer weather.

Oluthana ravintolassa.
Oluen kulutus on tilastojen mukaan lievässä laskussa. Image: Janne Lindroos / Yle

Thursday’s newspapers devote considerable real estate to new and looser alcohol laws that kick in from 1 March in Finland. Tabloid daily Iltalehti approaches the issue with a comparison of regulations across the Nordics, which finds that Finland’s laws are now so lax, that only one other Nordic country has more relaxed legislation on the sale of alcohol products – Denmark.

According to IL, the reforms that take effect Thursday include stronger beers in supermarkets, longer opening hours for bars and restaurants as well as the opportunity to extend the time for serving alcoholic beverages until 4.00am. In addition, stores and the state alcohol retail monopoly Alko will be able to serve customers until 9.00pm – one hour later than before.

One for the road, brew at home

Another big change the new legislation brings is the chance for these establishments to sell drinks “for the road” in much the same way that the state-owned monopoly Alko or supermarkets can. This practice is still a no-go in places like Sweden, Norway and Iceland, IL writes.

Iltalehti notes in a companion article that one of the overlooked changes taking effect from Thursday grants permission to private individuals to “prepare” mild alcoholic beverages at home for personal consumption – as long as it does not involve distillation. This opens up the option for hobbyists to brew beer, cider, wine, and “kilju” -- a Finnish home-made sugar wine drink.

Put it on my tab, bartender

Meanwhile, capital-based daily Helsingin Sanomat notes that the reform will now allow customers to run up at tab at their favourite watering holes, a practice that was previously prohibited. Kari Kunnas, an official from the public health watchdog Valvira noted that the purpose of the prior ban on booze debt was to prevent heavy alcohol users from binge-drinking on credit and later using benefits to pay off the bill.

"For example, the ban was meant to prevent someone with alcohol problems from drinking through their social benefits in advance," Kunnas said.

However while patrons will now be able to run up a tab, establishments will be responsible for ensuring “good practice” when they offer the service. That's because big outstanding drink bills could attract unwanted attention from regional administrative authorities looking for infractions of the law.

HS writes that a complementary change in the law also removes limits on the sizes of drinks that customers can buy. That means especially thirsty patrons can order an entire bottle of whisky if they want. However the reform restricts restaurants and bars from rolling out promotions that offer customers discounts based on volume consumption.

NCP pulled in different directions

Another tabloid daily, Ilta-Sanomat attempts to unpack the politics behind one National Coalition Party MP’s decision to break ranks and oppose a key aspect of the government's long-in-the-making social and health care reform programme. The drama unfolded on Wednesday when MP Elina Lepomäki declared she would not back the principle of expansion of private healthcare in the Finnish system as well as proposed provincial administration reform.

IS writes that her boss, party chair and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo said Lepomäki’s stance came entirely out of left field. He told the paper that MPs had been working on the proposals for three years with no apparent misgivings over the issues.

In a separate opinion piece IS columnist Timo Haapala concludes that Lepomäki’s decision to fly solo has revealed cracks in the party. Moreover, he suggests that Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori has been an influential backseat driver in the party on the question of social and health care reform. Haapala notes that Vapaavuori -- a one-time favourite to lead the NCP who is popular with rank and file party members -- has openly mocked the concept of provincial administration reform and the entire social and health care overhaul project. According to Haapala, when the time comes to vote on the now-contentious measures, the NCP may find that MPs are not all on the same page.

Frigid winter, hot summer?

Coming off the presses in Tampere, Aamulehti debunks an old Finnish belief that a bone-chilling winter is usually followed by a hot summer. The paper turned to Pauli Jokinen, a meteorologist from the Finnish Meteorological Institute FMI for the whole truth on the matter.

Jokinen had nothing but a cold shower for believers, declaring that statistically at least, there is no truth to the conventional wisdom. He noted that weather in Finland is so chaotic that the effects of a single weather phenomenon will not last longer than a month. He also pointed out that it would be impossible to provide any forecast that would be valid for more than a month this year.

Al writes that it is true however, that in the early 2010s warm summers occurred in years with brutal winters. However Jokinen said that while that may occasionally happen, in the long term there is no statistical relationship between cold winters and balmy summers.

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