Alcohol policy in the Nordic countries

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7088.1142 (Published 19 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1142

Why competition law must have a public health dimension

  1. Laurent Chenet, Research fellowa,
  2. Martin McKee, Professor of European public healtha,
  3. Merete Osler, Lecturerb,
  4. Allan Krasnik, Professor of social medicineb
  1. a European Centre on Health of Societies in Transition, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  2. b Institute of Public Health, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark

    Last month the European Court dealt a potentially fatal blow to alcohol policy in much of Scandinavia.1 A preliminary ruling held that Sweden's retail alcohol monopoly, which has the effect of controlling access to spirits, was illegal under European competition law. If upheld, this policy seems likely also to apply to Finland and, possibly, Norway and Iceland due to their obligations as members of the European Economic Area. All of these countries operate this system, which has been effective–death rates from cirrhosis in Sweden are less than half those in Denmark, where there is no such policy.2

    Indeed, in February the Danish daily newspaper Politiken reported new evidence that deaths from alcohol related diseases in Denmark have risen by 120% since 1970,3 contributing to the failure of Denmark to match improvements in life expectancy seen in neighbouring countries.4 The death rate from liver cirrhosis in …

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