Finland - Alcohol = leading cause of death among men
Figures for 2005 released by the state statistics agency showed that alcohol has become the leading cause of death among Finnish men aged 15 to 64, ahead of cardiovascular disease, accidents and cancer.
The statistics agency said that among men, drink was responsible for 17 percent of deaths. Among women, 10.6 percent of deaths were directly attributed to alcohol, second only to breast cancer, which killed 10.7 percent of women.
Alcohol consumption in the Nordic country has risen steadily since the end of the early 1990' recession. Last year, each Finn drank the equivalent of 10.5 liters of pure alcohol, compared to 6.3 liters in 1980 and 7.7 liters in 2003.
Finnish experts blamed the rise on EU regulations which led to a slashing of alcohol import quotas and a 40-percent reduction in taxes on spirits introduced in March 2004.
"It is a failure of health policy in the EU," said Pia Makela, a senior researcher at the National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health.
Like neighbouring Sweden, Finland is fighting to maintain its alcohol distribution monopoly, arguing that a restrictive alcohol policy limits consumption and promotes good health.
But the EU says the monopoly poses a barrier to competition.