OBJECTIVE: European Union travelers' allowances for alcohol import to Denmark, Sweden, and Finland were abolished in 2004. In addition, excise taxes on alcohol were lowered in 2003 and 2005 in Denmark, and in 2004 in Finland. Using northern Sweden as a control site, this study examines whether levels of reported alcohol problems have changed in Denmark, Finland, and southern Sweden as a consequence of these policy changes.

METHOD: Annual cross-sectional surveys were conducted in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden from 2003 to 2006. Five dependency items and seven extrinsic alcohol-related problems were examined. Changes were analyzed within each country/region with logistic regressions and tested for short- and long-term changes. Differential change was also tested between each country and the control site, northern Sweden.

RESULTS: Prevalence of alcohol problems decreased over the study period. Only in selected subgroups did problems increase. This mainly occurred in the samples for northern Sweden and Finland, and mostly among older age groups and men. In relation to the control site, however, no increases in problem prevalence were found.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings on a decline in reported alcohol problems largely agree with published reports on alcohol consumption over the same period in the study countries. They do not agree, however, with findings on changes in health and social statistics in Finland and Denmark, where some significant increases in alcohol-related harm have been found.

The article reviews the history of the discussion concerning the effect of alcohol consumption on the national economy. The point of departure is a discussion prompted by the prohibitionists in the Nordic countries and US who succeeded in bringing a ban on alcohol into reality. It made sense in those circumstances to ask the question. Two different situations were compared, a society where alcohol was forbidden and one where it was not. After the prohibitionists' hope of an alcohol-free society became a lost cause in the 1930s, interest in these calculations waned for a spell. Interest was re-ignited in Finland, Norway and Sweden in the 1960s and '70s, however, spreading to North America and Australia in the 1980s and '90s. A set of international guidelines was issued on how to estimate the social costs attributable to alcohol consumption. In practice, there was a heavy bias in favour of costs, while the income side, with the exception of alcohol's presumed beneficial effect on cardiovascular diseases, was left out. Cost-of-illness studies were employed here, in which a contemporary society was compared with a fictive one, where alcohol had never existed. This article argues that such studies are not very meaningful in a research context and represent a capitulation to the desire of politicians to give political decisions a semblance of neutrality based on a common-sense approach to economics.

AIMS: To analyse the effects of age, period and cohort (APC) on light and binge drinking in the general population of Finland over the past 40 years.

METHODS: All analyses were based on six Drinking Habits Surveys between 1968 and 2008 of representative samples of the Finnish population aged between 15 and 69 (n = 16,400). The number of drinking occasions per year involving 1-2 drinks (light) and 4+ or 6+ drinks (binges) was used as a dependent variable in APC modelling. Descriptive cohort profiles and negative binomial models were used to assess the effects of APC.

RESULTS: Descriptive cohort profiles differed for light and binge drinking. No substantial differences were found across cohort profiles for light drinking, while APC modelling predicted declining cohort and increasing period effects. Differences between cohorts were found for binge drinking, with predictions of slightly declining or increasing period and increasing cohort effects.

CONCLUSIONS: Light drinking has increased over time for each cohort, with no substantial differences between cohort profiles. Binge drinking has increased with more recent cohorts and thereA are distinct differences between cohort profiles, especially among women.

The ambivalent characteristic of the Finnish drinking culture is particularly evident in the context of family life. While drinking to intoxication in the home environment is widely tolerated, attitudes towards drinking in the presence of children appear negative, and there is broad political concern about harms to children. This study aims to both illuminate the attitudes towards drinking and the actual drinking behaviour of parents living with their children. We use data on 19-59-year old Finns from a general population survey ( ?=?2046). Respondents were asked about their drinking habits, recent drinking occasions and attitudes to drinking. Men under 40 years of age without underage children at home drank significantly more and more often to intoxication than those who had underage children. In a similar manner, women in all age groups without children at home drank significantly more often to intoxication than those who had children at home. Drinking to intoxication while children are present was almost unanimously considered inappropriate. Yet almost 40% of respondents considered it acceptable to drink to intoxication in the child's company if someone else is looking after the child. There was a significant relationship between these attitudes and actual behaviour among women. The drinking culture in Finland is very permissive, with intoxication often considered suitable for children's eyes as long as their safety is guaranteed. Prevention efforts should continue to target these attitudes and behaviour.

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