Leif Pagrotsky says high alcohol consumption rates lead to tight controls on drugs in Sweden.
Pagrotsky: We have a tradition of extreme damages from alcohol, for 1,000 years. There were periods in the 19th Century when the average consumption of spirit was about a liter a day per person, and that is a very heavy tradition to carry, so generations of Swedes have been fighting alcohol abuse, and it is imbedded in our culture now. And there is very strong support for restrictive policies towards alcohol, including high prices, restrictions and young people being able to buy, if you’re not 18, for instance, or if you’re not 20 in some cases, and membership of European Union has made this more difficult. Alcohol consumption is now going up again, and some healthcare, some health problems you can derive from this is now visible. Liver cancer, and you can see accident in traffic and so on that is related to alcohol, because it has been more difficult to control sales and use of alcohol now, and prices have come down also rather dramatically. But this is an element of globalization, of international competition, of open borders, and unfortunately the mentality of Swedish young people and the Swedish people have not changed in line with it, so now, when alcohol becomes more available and cheaper, we have not, at the same time, become more international in our ways to handle alcohol. When we get the opportunity, we still drink heavily at concentrated times, and then accidents occur. The debate is between two sides. One is the traditional restrictive policies: high prices, restrictions on access, and the other one is we are part of the world, why should we be different? The abuse is a consequence of, that we treat alcohol as something very special. By treating it something very special, it looks attractive, and that is the starting point for the abuses. My point is that this second hypothesis has been proved wrong. We are different. We have different cultural backgrounds. They are deeply imbedded and they are staying on. Then, as a responsible politician, as a responsible parent, it is my view that we must shape our policies in line with this, but I do support measures to make it easier to modernize it, to make it more flexible, but the fundamental element of having a restrictive policy when it comes to alcohol is firmly in my belief.