Study: Majority of Estonian residents support laxer alcohol policy

More than half of all Estonian residents support as liberal an alcohol policy as possible or one with few restrictions (54% in all), while another third favour more stringent restrictions, according to the alcohol yearbook, titled "Market, consumption and damages of alcohol in Estonia," introduced at a National Institute for Health Development (NIHD) conference on Tuesday.

According to a poll conducted by the Estonian Institute of Economic Research (EKI), 39% of Estonian residents support an alcohol policy with few restrictions, while 30% support a policy with more stringent restrictions. Another 15% favour as liberal an alcohol policy as possible, while 16% of respondents were unable to decide.

"There are enough opportunities to purchase alcohol in Estonia, and alcohol is easily accessible," said Marje Josing, director of the EKI. "More than 90% of residents live within ten minutes of somewhere they can purchase alcohol."

Just over half, or 53%, of adult respondents were in favour of implementing time restrictions on the sale of alcoholic beverages at dining establishments.

The majority of residents, or 73% of respondents, would not allow alcohol advertising in public spaces. 601% would ban the advertisement of alcohol on the radio, 60% online, on social media and on TV, and 53% in print media.

"The state has quickly increased the retail price of alcohol, thus limiting access to alcohol, which has contributed to the acceleration of cross-border trade," Josing said. "What is positive is that beginning in 2018, other alcohol policy measures began to be implemented, such as restrictions on alcohol advertising and promotion."

The institute director noted that the alcohol policy toolbox includes dozens of possible measures, and that it would be smart to diversify their implementation. "Also important is that residents of the country understand and support the state alcohol policy," she added.

In 2017, Estonian residents consumed 8.6 litres of absolute alcohol per capita, or 10.3 litres of per adult resident. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), six litres of absolute alcohol per capita is the ceiling after which alcohol consumption begins to significantly impact a country's public health.

Consumption steady on year, down from 2007 levels

Compared to 2016 figures, alcohol consumption in Estonia did not change significantly. Compared to 2007, meanwhile, Estonia's absolute alcohol consumption per capita fell by nearly 4.5 litres.

Over the past ten years, consumption of hard liquor and lighter alcoholic beverages including ciders and wine has decreased the most, by 47% and 63%, respectively. Consumption of beer decreased less, by 13%.

Of issues related to the abuse of alcohol, respondents to the survey considered drink driving to be the biggest concern (92%), followed by domestic violence (84%), crimes against persons (81%), and disturbing the peace, health issues and family issues caused by alcohol (80% each).

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