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Privatizing Sweden's retail alcohol sales will increase alcohol-related violence and other harms
Date:8/31/2010

A study published today in the scientific journal Addiction argues that privatising Sweden's government monopoly on the sale of alcohol will significantly increase alcohol-related violence and other harms. Depending on the type of privatisation, experts predict that total alcohol consumption in Sweden will increase by 17 - 37%, with thousands more alcohol-related deaths, assaults, and drunk driving offences per year and up to 11 million more days of sick leave.

Systembolaget, the Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly, currently controls the off-premises sale, within Sweden, of all beverages over 3.5% alcohol by volume. The legality of the monopoly has been under scrutiny since Sweden entered the EU in 1995. But dismantling Systembolaget is likely to produce grim consequences. Experts from seven alcohol research centres in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Canada, and the United States considered the effects of two models of privatisation that might one day replace Sweden's monopoly.

In the first scenario, Systembolaget's 400 stores would be replaced by about 800 government-licensed alcohol shops, doubling the number of retail outlets. Compared with Systembolaget's stores, private shops are likely to stay open longer, sell discounted alcohol, sell alcohol to underage drinkers, and use advertising to boost sales, all of which have been shown to increase alcohol consumption. Experts predict that the change to specialty alcohol shops will result in a 17% rise in drinking per person, 770 more deaths per year, 8,500 more assaults, 2,700 more drinking driving offences, and 4.5 million additional days of sick leave.

The second scenario, letting grocery stores sell alcohol, brings even worse consequences. There are currently 8,000 Swedish grocery stores that sell beer with alcohol content below 3.6%. If all of those food stores chose to sell other forms of alcohol, the number of retail outlets in Sweden would increase by a factor of twenty. Like speci
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Contact: Jean O'Reilly
jean@addictionjournal.org
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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