The evil strong beer

Finland, like other Nordic countries, has one of the strictest alcohol laws in the world – excluding Muslim countries, where the consumption of ethanol is prohibited for religious reasons. For instance, if I published this text in Finland, Univers would probably have to disable the commenting function.

The aim is to keep the vodka-thirsty locals from devoting themselves to bottles even more than they already are doing. The means, however, sometimes go to hilarious extremes.

In December, the Dutch were discussing the snow chaos (don’t get me started on that), the rest of the world the North Korean turntail – and the Finns a Great Shift in its alcohol policy.

The alcohol percentage of the beer sold in supermarkets was to be raised from 4,7% to 5.5%.

It was on the cover of every yellow press newspaper. Experts were being interviewed in the morning talk shows. The parliament voted on it – twice. It divided political parties into two camps, and a MP even resigned from his party as a protest.

The end of the Finnish civilization as we know it was near. Doctors warned the lawmakers that the number of alcohol-related deaths would increase, youth would have access to more deadly alcohol, and if reforms like this kept coming, soon we’d even decriminalize cannabis!

The panic seems absurd from a Dutch point of view.

You can purchase any alcohol up to 20-something percent at your corner store and weed in a local coffee shop. Still, in the Netherlands, the annual alcohol consumption of an average individual is 8,7 liters according to the WHO statistics from 2014. For Finland, the number is a striking 10,9. In spite of the advertisement ban, strict limits on both selling locations and times, broad education in schools and laws limiting the opening hours of bars.

Many Finns are calling for a more modern, “Central European” approach to the alcohol policy. As a Finn with an access to the Dutch strong beers at the supermarket, I agree. Most of the individuals battling alcoholism don’t get their kicks from craft IPA’s, but the cheapest and the strongest stuff they can find. Finland could learn a lot from the chill Dutchmen and –women: there’s no stigma around alcohol and soft drugs anymore, as they’ve been normalized. The appeal of the forbidden fruit has been taken away.  

Let’s be real. We all choose a crispy special beer to go with the movie night pizza, but when it’s 3 am in Carpe, we opt for Bavaria.

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