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Cancer Society of Finland warns against proposed alcohol law changes, citing public health risks

22.11.2023 - In Finland, the government's proposal to increase the availability of alcohol is facing strong criticism from health organisations, particularly regarding its potential impact on public health and safety. The Cancer Society of Finland has voiced opposition to these changes, highlighting the significant health risks associated with alcohol consumption.

The Society emphasises that alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer, contributing to about 2,100 cancer cases and 500 cancer deaths annually in Finland. They stress that even moderate alcohol use can lead to significant health issues, including an increased risk of various cancers. The proposed changes in alcohol law, which aim to increase the availability of alcohol by allowing stronger alcoholic beverages (5.5–8% alcohol content) in regular retail stores, are expected to lead to a substantial increase in consumption.

Critics argue that the government's plan contradicts its own objectives of balancing public finances, improving productivity, and managing healthcare costs. Increased alcohol availability will likely negatively affect productivity, leading to more sick leaves, decreased work efficiency, and more workplace accidents. This, in turn, will burden the healthcare sector, which already incurs direct costs of approximately 157 million euros annually due to alcohol-related issues.

The Cancer Society also points out that the government's proposal lacks a comprehensive impact assessment. When assessing the cumulative effects of various alcohol policy changes planned for the government's term, it becomes evident that these could significantly amplify each other's impact, leading to more significant overall harm.

Furthermore, the proposal is seen as contradictory to the objectives of the Alcohol Act, which aims to reduce alcohol-related harm. Critics argue that the proposed changes are politically motivated, focusing on enhancing competition rather than considering the social and health implications of increased alcohol consumption.

There are also concerns about the effects on public safety, family well-being, and the economy. High alcohol consumption rates among working-age adults (39% of men and 18% of women) contribute to poor work health, reduced job safety, and lower productivity. This is particularly evident in industries like construction, manufacturing, and transportation, where alcohol-related issues are more prevalent.

The Society suggests that any changes to the Alcohol Act should be evaluated from a social and health policy perspective, considering the significant adverse effects of alcohol, even when used as intended. They advocate for maintaining the current alcohol retail monopoly system, which is internationally recognised as an effective way to reduce alcohol-related harm.

In summary, while the Finnish government seeks to increase the availability of alcohol as part of its economic and competition policies, health organisations like the Cancer Society of Finland warn against the potential increase in consumption and related harms, emphasising the need for policies that prioritise public health and safety.

Cancer Society of Finland´s statement in full (in Finnish)

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