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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In fear of a reversal back to the spirits-drinking era-the 2004 decrease of Finnish alcohol taxes in public discourse

The study investigates how the dissimilar tax reductions for different alcoholic beverages (spirits, wine and beer) were debated during the large tax decrease on alcoholic beverages in Finland in 2004.

The material comprises parliamentary proceedings and discussions, as well as daily press items (=105) from 2003-2004. Content analyses, both quantitative and qualitative, were performed.

The parliament's discussion on the unequal treatment of different beverage types concerned mostly the overall framing of a public health perspective, differencing between consumption of "spirits" and "non-spirits". The mass media framed the question mostly from the industry's point of view. Neither a clear support of the total consumption model (excluding specification of beverage sort), nor a strong liberalisation model for alcohol policy were expressed in the materials. Varying stances were merely motivated within a paradigm of "changing drinking patterns".

The differing treatment of different beverage types, especially the large reductions in spirits taxes, was crystallised as the fundamental public health concern surrounding the decision to lower alcohol taxes. In the end of the article the authors ask whether the lack of clear stances other than the drinking pattern framing could imply that the Finnish alcohol policy debate has become more heterogeneous, neutralised or resigned in its basic nature.

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