The government of Finland has confirmed that it will loosen up the country’s tight alcohol laws. The country is notoriously strict in its regulation of the advertising and sale of alcohol products.
The Finnish government, which is a coalition of three parties, has now said that it intends to reform the regulations surrounding alcohol, which are largely defined by the country’s Alcohol Act. According to the National Coalition Party, speaking to the Finnish press, the new approach will be “less patronising, more sense.”
The change that will perhaps make the biggest difference to individuals on a night out will be the removal of a restriction on the amount of alcohol that can be purchased in a single transaction. Currently, an individual is only allowed to buy one portion of alcohol at a time in a bar or restaurant. This has prevented any one member of a group from buying a round of drinks for their friends, but with the restriction removed this practice will become possible.
Other restrictions on the purchase of alcohol in bars and restaurants will also be lifted. This will allow people to do various things they cannot do under the current system such as buy drinks to take home and paying for alcohol with a credit card. The minimum drinking age will also be reduced from 18 to 16, provided that somebody is present to provide appropriate supervision, for example a parent.
Retailers will also gain additional freedoms in how and where they supply alcohol. Currently only the Alko off-licence chain, which is owned by the state, is able to sell drinks that contain more than 4.7% alcohol by volume, but this is due to change with corner shops being able to sell drinks with strengths up to 5.5%. Micro-breweries will gain the ability to sell drinks that contain more than 5.5% alcohol by volume on-site, and events such as music festivals will gain more freedom for the provision of beer tents.
Outi Makela, deputy chair of the National Coalition Party, published the full list of upcoming amendments to the Alcohol Act on her blog. The reaction from the Finnish people has been largely positive, with many pointing out that the reforms will bring the legal situation regarding alcohol in Finland much closer to that found in most other European countries. Some, however, have criticised the loss of restrictions which they see as safeguards against underage drinking, while others claim that the new laws do not go far enough in providing the freedoms available in many other nations.