What happened to alcohol consumption and problems in the Nordic countries when alcohol taxes were decreased and borders opened?

  • Robin Room Centre for Social Research on Alcohol & Drugs, Stockholm University; School of Population Health. University of Melbourne; Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre
  • Kim Bloomfield Center for Alcohol and Drug Research, Copenhagen Division, Aarhus University, Copenhagen, Denmark; Charité – University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Gerhard Gmel Research Institute of Addiction Info Switzerland, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Ulrike Grittner Charité – University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Nina-Katri Gustafsson Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Pia Mäkelä National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
  • Esa Österberg National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
  • Mats Ramstedt Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Jürgen Rehm Social & Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, Toronto, Canada; Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto (UoT), Toronto, Canada; Epidemiological Research Unit, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
  • Matthias Wicki Research Institute of Addiction Info Switzerland, Lausanne, Switzerland
Keywords: alcohol, taxation, price, availability, alcohol consumption, alcohol-attributable harm, alcohol-related mortality, cross-border trade, Nordic countries

Abstract

Room. R., Bloomfield, K., Gmel, G., Grittner, U., Gustafsson, N.-K., Mäkelä, P., Österberg, E., Ramstedt, M., Rehm, J. & Wicki, M.  (2013). What happened to alcohol consumption and problems in the Nordic countries when alcohol taxes were decreased and borders opened? International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, 2(1), 77-87.   doi: 10.7895/ijadr.v2i1.58 (http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v2i1.58)

Aims: The study tests the effects of reductions in alcohol taxation and increases in travellers’ allowances on alcohol consumption and related harm in Denmark, Finland, and southern Sweden.  In late 2003 and early 2004, taxes on alcoholic beverages were reduced in Denmark and Finland, and the abolition of quantitative quotas on alcohol import for personal use from other European Union countries made cheaper alcohol more available in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.

Method: Analyses of routine statistical register data and summaries of results from longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional population surveys and other previous analyses, with northern Sweden as a control site for secular trends.

Results: Contrary to expectations, alcohol consumption—as based on register data—increased only in Finland and not in Denmark and southern Sweden, and self-reported survey data did not show an increase in any site.  In Finland, alcohol-attributable harms in register data increased, especially in people with low socio-economic status.  Few such effects were found in Denmark and southern Sweden.  Neither did results for self-reported alcohol-attributable problems show any general increases in the three sites.  These results remained after controlling for regression to the mean and modelling of drop-outs.

Conclusions: Harms measured in register data did tend to increase in the short term with the policy change, particularly in Finland, where the tax changes were broader.  But reducing price and increasing availability does not always increase alcohol consumption and harm.  Effects are dampened in affluent societies, and other factors may intervene. The results for Finland also suggest some limits for general population surveys in testing for relatively small policy effects.

Published
2013-03-08
How to Cite
Room, R., Bloomfield, K., Gmel, G., Grittner, U., Gustafsson, N.-K., Mäkelä, P., Österberg, E., Ramstedt, M., Rehm, J., & Wicki, M. (2013). What happened to alcohol consumption and problems in the Nordic countries when alcohol taxes were decreased and borders opened?. The International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, 2(1), 77-87. https://doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v2i1.58
Section
Other Papers