Alcohol consumption in Iceland, measured between 1980 and 2020, increased from three liters to six liters per person aged 15 and over, reports Fréttablaðið.
Icelanders drink more often than before, but as a rule—less at a time. Teenage drinking has decreased, but every third child in the 9th grade has consumed alcohol, and there is evidence that the problem is increasing again. At the same time, budgets for the prevention of alcohol consumption are 15% smaller now than a few years ago.
Earlier, we reported that Iceland’s alcohol store Vínbúðin could be allowed to be open on Sundays and other holidays if a bill that five members of the Progressive Party have submitted to Parliament passes. Between the years 2020 and 2021, sales at ÁTVR (the company that owns Vínbúðin) increased by a whopping 40%. Some attribute the rise of alcohol sales to foreign tourists. However, within ÁTVR, according to its deputy director Sigrún Ósk Sigurðardóttir, that part has been estimated to be insignificant or about 2%. There were also fewer sales in the first nine months of this year compared to 2021.
The number of restaurants that sell alcohol is huge. Buying alcohol via the internet has become a reality and all these factors greatly increase accessibility.
The Ministry of Health distributes funds through the Public Health Fund, while the Office of the National Inspector of Health administers the fund. Domestic contributions to addiction and drug prevention equaled ISK 81.6 million last year compared to ISK 96.3 million in 2018.
“This is a major reduction at a time when access to alcohol is being increased. Increased consumption should call for increased prevention,” says prevention officer Árni Einarsson.
Árni says that the government tries to make it clear that increased access has no negative side effects, even though the World Health Organization has repeatedly calculated that increased access increases consumption.
According to Árni, alcohol consumption must be based on a social contract and an informed approach. You must not give in to market forces, as it is undeniable that alcohol can be very harmful.
Ársæll Arnarson, professor at the Faculty of Education at the University of Iceland, and manager of Icelandic Youth Research says that there is a certain contradiction in the fact that drinking in society has increased dramatically while teenage drinking has decreased. “We are left with a certain portion of children who drink alcohol, up to 30% of tenth graders have drunk alcohol according to the latest research,” says Ársæll. Ársæll says that teenage drinking was a big problem in previous years. Although success has been achieved, it is not enough to put oars in a boat. “Teenagers are endless targets of alcohol producers, and it is sad if we are going to sacrifice the great success that has been achieved,” says Ársæll.
Svanhildur Hólm Valsdóttir from the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce says she is of the opinion that the state monopoly on the sale of alcohol should be abolished. She points out that one of the main arguments for the government’s private sale is that it is limiting access. In the last 30 years, however, the number of ÁTVR liquor stores has quadrupled, there are now around 50 stores, and service hours have been extended.
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