Development of alcohol policy in Estonia
Estonia is one of few countries in EU that does not have any national alcohol strategy. Read this article from Eurocare's member in Estonia on the process of developing a green paper on alcohol policy.
Estonia is one of few countries in EU that does not have any national alcohol strategy. Consumption grew till 2007, a year when the average Estonian drank 12.7 litres in one year. The economical crises then hit, and in the next three years alcohol consumption fell , to 9.6 litres in 2010. Despite some changes in alcohol policy (excise tax raises, ban for night time retail sale), it was clear that the strongest influence came from the crises.
During the last election period, Ministry of Social Affairs was drafting new alcohol policy document which was also finalised but never accepted by the government. After last years election the same government gave a mandate to draft „the green paper“ of alcohol policy. Starting point for this process came from the structure of the WHO global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, and the WHO European action plan to implement global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.
As part of this process, 7 working groups were established manned by the ministries and state institutions, research institutes, NGOs and also by industry representatives.
Ministry of Social Affairs has set three main goals; to prevent consumption among minors, reduce harmful drinking and reduce overall consumption. It is important to note that during those years when alcohol consumption was decreasing (2008-2010), alcohol industry increased their advertising in TV. This clearly indicates that when government has set the goal to decrease alcohol consumption industry works to increase their market and thus functions in green paper working groups with clearly opposing interests.
NGOs are rather sceptical concerning the real outcome of this process. There is no clear understanding what kind of political power this paper will have on real policies of the government. Coalition is formed by two liberal parties which in principle does not support strong state regulation of alcohol marketing, and it is hard to predict any changes with the new paper. However, at the same time it is important to note that the state has set as a target to reach the overall yearly consumption to a level below 8 litres absolute alcohol consumption per capita.
Estonian Institute of Economic research publised its latest research in May stating that in 2011 per capita consumption grew by 5.7% to 10.2 litres.
The deadline for the green paper is the end of 2012.
Text by Eurocare Vice-President Lauri Beekmann