Alcohol “costs Sweden 50 billion extra a year”

Alcohol consumption has soared more than 30 percent in Sweden since the mid-1990s, costing the country an additional 50 billion kronor each year, according to a report published Tuesday by the Swedish Temperance Organization.

“Alcohol consumption in 2005 is expected to cost society 160 billion kronor, an increase of 50 billion compared to… 1998,” the temperance organization, IOGT-NTO, said in a statement, adding that deaths in the Scandinavian country related to alcohol consumption were expected to rise from 6,000 to 7,500 each year.

“Swedes today drink more than they have in the past 100 years… The increase since the mid-1990s is about 30 percent,” the non-governmental organization said, referring to numbers in the new report, conducted by national economist Anders Johnson.

“We already see today how the increased consumption has led to more alcohol-related injuries, more abuse, and more children with alcoholic parents,” Sofia Modigh, head of the IOGT-NTO’s alcohol and drug policy division, said in the statement.

The group called on the Swedish government to think twice before slashing alcohol taxes, as a government-commissioned report recommended earlier this year.

That report suggested cutting Sweden’s sky-high taxes by 30 percent on beer and wine and 40 percent on hard liquor in order to curb the constant stream of Swedes to neighboring countries in search of cheaper booze.

Since 1996, average alcohol consumption in Sweden has jumped from eight litres of pure alcohol annually per person to 10.5 liters last year, according to the government report.

The amount of hard liquor bought at Swedish drinks monopoly Systembolaget during the same period barely budged however, inching up from 2.7 to 2.8 litres pure alcohol on average.

At the same time the amount of alcohol brought legally into Sweden from abroad has soared from 1.1 to 2.7 liters of pure alcohol per person on average, while consumption of smuggled booze quadrupled from 0.2 to 0.8 litres.

“Instead of lowering alcohol taxes the government should work to lower the import alcohol quotas and thus reduce the border trade,” Modigh insisted.