SWEDEN: State monopoly launches PR offensive
22 Nov 2005
Source: just-drinks.com editorial team
Sweden's state-owned retail monopoly Systembolaget is launching an SEK8m (US$960,000) ad campaign to defend its hold on alcohol sales in the country.
Systembolaget, which owns and operates all liquor stores in Sweden, made the case for the monopoly in a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and in a newspaper ad to be published today in the Financial Times.
The ad, headlined "Dear Mr. Barroso, Here's why you should consider cutting down on drinking", highlights drinking problems in Europe, and suggests the Swedish monopoly has helped keep down the country's alcohol consumption.
The campaign also includes ads in Swedish papers and a short film on the Internet promoting the monopoly.
"The message we want to aim at Barroso is that the alcohol issue is important," Systembolaget president Anitra Steen told Swedish radio. "The other thing is that we have a working model in Sweden that we want to keep."
Sweden has faced pressure to relax its stringent controls on alcohol sales since joining the European Union in 1995. EU officials say the monopoly is inconsistent with the free movement of goods in the single market, while Sweden argues it is needed to protect public health.
Sweden has been forced to ease some of its import restrictions on alcohol, but maintains high taxes on alcohol.
Systembolaget's sales have dropped, especially in the southern part of the country, due to the increased cross-border shopping to Denmark and Germany, where duty is lower.
24-hour drinking: a sober assessment
The licensing laws change at midnight, but is the glass half-full or half-empty?
Published: 23 November 2005
Binge Drinking: Will 24-hour licensing laws increase it?
Ministers say the move will lead to Continental-style drinking. Instead of gulping down pints towards 11pm, drinkers will be under no pressure. Police can close rowdy bars and fine licensees for selling to drunkards and children. Disorderly drinkers will face £80 on-the-spot fines.
Medical and academic experts are pessimistic: by increasing availability, the amount of drinking will rise. It is likely to follow existing patterns which will mean binge drinking, particularly among young people. Academics cite experiments in Iceland, the Republic of Ireland and Australia as evidence.
Long-term health: Will the new laws lead to a rise in health problems caused by excessive drinking?
The Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, believes people will become more sensible drinkers, so the prevalence of illness will decline. In any case, Britons are not the heaviest drinkers in Europe. In a European study last year, Finland and Ireland were the worst offenders. Britain was third.
Doctors expect more liver and heart disease, mouth cancer and injuries from accidents, fights and falls. Liver disease is rising among heavy drinkers, particularly women. Martin Shalley, president of the British Association for Emergency Medicine, says: "The laws will make things worse."
Violence: Will the new laws increase drink-fuelled disturbances?
Violent crime has risen relentlessly over the past decade, fuelled by alcohol, and convictions for being drunk and disorderly have doubled. Ministers say inflexible licensing laws are the problem, encouraging binge-drinking and forcing revellers on to the streets at the same time.
The Institute of Alcohol Studies concluded liberalisation led to more violent disorder. A police report predicted an "increase in the number of investigations of drink-related crimes, such as rape, assault, homicide and domestic violence". Hospitals fear there will be more victims of crime.
Culture: What cultural impact will late-night opening have?
Ministers are seeking a "café society", where families can drop in at all hours to share a bottle of wine or have a beer. Tessa Jowell said existing laws implied the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Australians and the Scots were "more biologically civilised than the English".
The new flexibility will produce a booze free-for-all that blights, rather than benefits, towns and cities. Unlike England and Wales, other countries with relaxed licensing laws have a mature attitude to alcohol that sees no merit in all-you-can-drink promotions and happy hour deals.
Profits boom: Will 24-hour drinking be a financial bonanza for the pubs?
The industry says few pubs will open for 24 hours. Most will open an hour or two longer, and may lose money if they attract few drinkers. They will have to pay for extra running costs. The new system increases the cost of licences. The British Beer and Pub Association predicts "little or no profit".
Pub industry takings could rise significantly. One estimate is that the turnover could increase by £1bn for 30,000 pubs seeking an extra five hours. Andrew McNeill, of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: "These new laws are about selling more alcohol and larger profits for the drinks industry."
Public support: Is there widespread backing for 24-hour licences?
The Government believes the silent majority backs liberalisation, and argues that people are frustrated when on a night out they cannot enjoy a drink after 11pm. Ministers say holidaymakers returning from the Continent wonder why this country cannot have the same late-night bar culture.
A Populus poll in September found that 62 per cent opposed the changes. Women were three to one against later opening. Only those in the 18 to 24 age group were in favour. Four out of five of people over 65 were opposed. More than three fifths of the public feared "serious problems for society".
Wednesday, 23 November 2005, 13:00 GMT
'A third of pubs' to open longer
About one-third of all the pubs, clubs and shops in England and Wales licensed to sell alcohol are to get longer opening hours, BBC research suggests
New licensing laws which allow pubs to apply for 24-hour drinking in some areas come into force at midnight.
Of the 375 licensing authorities surveyed, 301 responded in full. BBC News 24 researchers found 60,326 outlets can sell alcohol for longer.
But only 1,121, including 359 pubs and clubs, are getting 24-hour licences.
Licensing Minister James Purnell said the new laws would be coupled with the "toughest ever crackdown on alcohol fuelled violence".
A rise in the number of arrests could be a measure of the success of powers in the Licensing Act, he said.
Mr Purnell told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are not saying that crime itself will go up.
"What we are saying is that we are giving the police more powers and we do expect there to be more prosecutions."
Mr Purnell added that premises which sell to underage youngsters will be putting their licence at risk - and he stressed that this would include supermarkets.
"It is absolutely clear that the current system has not worked," said the minister.
"Let's not penalise the majority of responsible drinkers because of the crimes of a minority.
"There should be a very clear principle here - that if people are not causing harm to others, government should get out of their personal lives."
The BBC survey found:
There have been 60,326 extensions in hours for selling alcohol - this is from 301 of the 375 authorities, so the final figure will be higher.
1,121 establishments will have 24-hour licences and of these 359 are pubs or clubs.
South East England has the largest number of approved licences - 10,500.
Some 5,200 extensions have been approved in London - but just 14 pubs or clubs can open for 24 hours.
More than 150 pubs or clubs in the south and west of England gained 24-hour licences, with just eight in the West Midlands.
The survey results come after ministers warned that the introduction of more relaxed licensing laws on Thursday is likely to lead to an increase in alcohol related arrests.
Shadow culture secretary Theresa May said the logic of the government's plans was "absurd".
She told BBC News: "The government has got it the wrong way round.
"They should have been doing something about binge drinking before looking at extending the licensing hours."
Mrs May said it was of "great concern" that a "significant number, if not a majority" of premises that would have 24-hour drinking were supermarkets and petrol stations, which she said were often frequented by underage drinkers.
She concluded that the change "will lead to more disorder", adding that "government ministers have accepted that there will be more crime as a result of these laws".
But Mark Hastings from the British Beer and Pub Association welcomed the changes.
He said: "We've been saying for a long time that the result of this change would be a relatively modest increase in overall licensing hours, that 24-hour opening was an urban myth, and certainly 24-hour drinking would be an urban myth.
"What we're actually seeing is that at last in this country adults are going to be treated like grown-ups and given a little bit of choice about having a social life beyond 11 o'clock at night."
Despite the then restrictive hours you could get a drink at any time if you knew where to look (legally). We have very, very liberal licensing laws now and our society hasn't fallen apart (it was always like this).
The liver specialist then went on television to criticise the introduction of 24-hour drinking. It reflected a society that was "falling apart," he said. "People will go in and start drinking earlier, drink larger amounts of alcohol and, because there is no closing time, go on and on."
France regards itself as a nation which knows how to take its drink, unlike, say, the Scandinavians or the British. But a hard-hitting report presented to the government suggested the entire country is in a state of alcoholic denial.
The semi-official study undermines an argument used by the Blair government for extending Britain's pub opening hours. Spreading drinking over a longer period, as France does, does not necessarily reduce alcohol-related social ills.