• Sweden's news in English

Monopoly holds back binge drinking - study

The Local · 1 Sep 2010, 07:58

Published: 01 Sep 2010 07:58 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

According to the researchers the sale of alcohol products in grocery stores and other retail outlets would lead to 37 percent hike in alcohol sales, 2,000 more alcohol-related deaths, 20,000 more violent crimes, 6,600 more drink driving offences and 11 million more sick days per annum.

"Systembolaget's existence is questioned from time to time, so it is good for both politicians and the public to know what the consequences of such a change would be," said professor Thor Norström at the institute for social research to Rapport.

The study has also looked at an alternative scenario with Systembolaget's 400 stores replaced with 800 privately-owned, but controlled, stores licensed to sell alcohol and concluded that alcohol consumption would also increase, but only by 17 percent.

The study is, at least in part, based on experiences gained from when full-strength beer was sold in retail stores in the 1960s and SVT asked Norström if Swedes had not perhaps become more mature and informed about the adverse effects of alcohol since then.

Story continues below…

"You never know. Drinking patterns and culture are sluggish processes," he said.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

09:24 September 1, 2010 by refugee
if that is the case what will be the potental solution .....
09:44 September 1, 2010 by hjoian
where do they get these figures from?? Another case of the state not letting people be responsible for them selves. I think you will find that binge drinking is caused by the LACK of available alcohol. Citing that there will be increased amount s of violent crime,drink related deaths, drink driving,loss of productive work das etc, has NOTHING to do with the availiabilty of alcohol....but has EVERYTHING to do with responsible drinking.This is NOT a free and democratic society when you restric the people from making their own choices. Bunch of communists!!
10:18 September 1, 2010 by flintis
Total Bull s?it, System Bolaget is an outdated communist system & should be abolished
10:21 September 1, 2010 by Keith #5083
The people are NOT restricted from making their own choices. They can, if they wish, purchase alcohol in the existing system and, if they wish, become one of the casualty statistics of alcohol related misuse.

Equally, I see no reason why sales could not be made available in supermarkets, etc. A 37% increase in sales is good for...hmmm...the manufacturer /distributor/ seller.

What,however, does puzzle me is the hypocritical double standard between alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol-related disorders cost the health services in western countries an average of 6 times what smoking related disorders cost.

So, yes, make alcohol more available - and tax it higher (as with tobacco) to cover the real costs to society of this 'so called freedom'.
10:46 September 1, 2010 by Rishonim
Just another manipulative study from the government in order to continue their grip on the sales of alcohol in Sweden.
10:49 September 1, 2010 by Audrian
This is a good example of blind faith in privatization. Privitization of the outlet for the distribution of alcoholic drinks have considerable disadvantages but no clear benefits to society except for businessess which would make tons of profit during economic boom as well as during recession, because the demand for alcohol is inelastic (people buy alchol even when they do not have enough food to eat).

It is a bad policy decision to end government retail mononpoly!
11:24 September 1, 2010 by Beavis
Hillarous! System bulls*** encourages binge drinking more than anything else.

Theres no such thing as popping out to buy a bottle of wine on a Saturday night because you have some people over no, you have to stock up because the damp dump is closed. SO Swedes are forced to stockpile their booze, hence buying more!

I think they got their figures from the random number generators.

They need to look at the Danish model. The Danes have a much more open attitude to alcohol and have far less issues than Sweden. The more you restrict anything, the more people abuse it. Have teenagers not taught Sweden anything!?
11:50 September 1, 2010 by nneville
It can be argued that stocking up eliminates the argument of access. However, it is a very direct way of saying, 'You are children of a Socialist society, and have no rights in this area because we do not trust you to handle yourselves responsibly." That is the real reason. Binge drinking happens already. Alcoholics will be Alcoholics by proxy. If they want to present a reasonable argument, just say that you are afraid of allowing markets to sell the hard stuff. Just be honest!
12:18 September 1, 2010 by Swedesmith
Tobacco is dangerous, perhaps....Snusbolaget. Marijuana can lead to bad things...Dopebolaget. Too much ice cream can make you fat....Glasboloaget. Etcetera, etcetera.
12:29 September 1, 2010 by Jes
Tobacco kills more Swedes than alcohol . I have always wondered why tobacco products are not sold in "controlled" stores like the case is with hard alcohol and medicines .

It makes no sense to me that monopoly holds back consumption of alcohol .Only an agent of the Systemsbolaget can have that kind of a conclusion .Reality is that drinkers will stock up , even if the store was open for only one day in a week.

Those who are seriously interested in reducing the consuption of alcohol in Sweden are better off starting within the families .The habit of abusing alcohol usually begins in a home , within the family . I think there should be a rule that forbids parents from entering alcohol shops / bars followed by their small children . A child who accompanies her / his parent to these places is exposed to the notion that drinking is fun . These kids start "drinking" by imitation
12:36 September 1, 2010 by the fonz
I quite like the Systembolaget because it's fairly reasonable in price and has a very good range. What I find hard to live with is the ridiculous opening hours. 15:00 on a Saturday for goodness sake! If you invited out for dinner and didn't make it by 15:00 what are you to do?

I don't accept the figures in this study, they are estimated and therefore made-up, I don't accept either the argument about binge drinking.

Just extend the opening hours and I think you'll find that people are content with the system on the whole.
13:40 September 1, 2010 by Youdee
Twenty years ago, a CFO for a US medical care corporation told me that Sweden would be stupid if it dissolved Sytembolaget, which (1) reports hefty profits that are returned to tax payers via various channels and (2) enables a healthier population compared to countries that have deregulated that market.

I wouldn't have said this 10 years ago, but today, I like Systembolaget, which offers quality products and services. Last time I was there, a clerk asked if he could help me (I was searching for recommendations published in newspaper articles).
13:51 September 1, 2010 by Jes
Offers quality products ?

What a streach !!!

A bottle of Whisky from Scotland will be of the same quality no metter where one buys it from , right ?
14:19 September 1, 2010 by BrittInSweden
People do not binge drink at home which is where off licenses and supermarkets come in.

Bringe drinking is done in pubs and bars so using that exceuse for the pitiful state of System is just unproven.
14:47 September 1, 2010 by mojofat
At Nordstan last weekend there were at least 200 people waiting in line at the Systembolaget on Saturday afternoon...and I'm not making that up. I don't see the connection between the government controlling it and it being safer somehow for society than if it were privatized and regulated like any other business. A fellow got on the tram Monday afternoon so drunk he couldn't stand up...and it was 13:00!

Private liquor stores do not create alcoholics...alcoholism creates alcoholics. It seems there's more of a revenue incentive for the government to keep things the way they are, although I think that's a bit short-sighted. Privatize it and the government could probably increase revenues through taxes and licenses.
15:34 September 1, 2010 by Great Scott
Its sound to me that you all have a drink problem, and this report really upsets you.
15:42 September 1, 2010 by BarCode
There is good medical evidence that regular consumption of ethanol is healthy, and even heavy drinkers live longer than nondrinkers.
16:30 September 1, 2010 by GefleFrequentFlyer
I think the main dynamic of Green sign/alcoholism/binge drinking/typical swede bar clown behavior is tied to the idea that the patron "thinks they are getting away with something" by acting out or getting something that is percieved as forbidden or restricted.

"Oooo you went to green sign and got a green sign bag? I wonder what kind of naughty is inside there! You're BAAAD!"

"Oooo, you went on the Viking line and bought a wheelbarrow of Heineken and Koskenkorva? You're hardcore!"

"Oooo, you can act the biggest drunken fool at the club? You must be one bad dude"

I don't buy the arguement that Green Sign has evolved to be a "well run expert on spirits for tbe benefit of it's customers". No they are a goverment run/instituted bungplug measure to prevent excess alcohol getting into the hands of the serfs of sweden. That idea has been flatly proved false. This "study" is bunk.
16:57 September 1, 2010 by Taxalien
Yeah right. Probably true up in the high north right?

But on the west and south coast? You gotta be kidding!

I don't know anyone who offered me anything to drink that was bought from systemet for a long time around here. It is all imported from Germany.
17:06 September 1, 2010 by gabeltoon
Just take a look at what drink does here in SCOTLAND. I enjoy going out for a drink myself but when i see the younger generations and how drink affects them i wish we had better control of the sale of drink.It is so easy for them to get hold of drink through the sales in off licences and supermarkets.Your system may be expensive but at least you don't have the same deaths and accidents as we do.
18:13 September 1, 2010 by Kaethar
Lol at most people here who think they know everything. :D To you it's more likely that there's some government conspiracy involving Stockholm University than it is that there's some truth to these reports. What a joke. :D
20:19 September 1, 2010 by Vetinari
Yes, there would be increased drinking AT FIRST as people go from restricted access to free access.

After a while it will go back to normal levels once people get tired of drinking all the time just because they can.
20:41 September 1, 2010 by countrysidedrive
Are we or are we not adults. Capable of voting, having sex, going to war, driving, sailing, running and so on. Why can we not buy alcohol as we see fit. Good question. I already have a parents and do no need a stranger to tell me what to do. The Systembolaget needs to be thrown in the garbage. It is only some out dated system that has no benefits to anyone except to those who still think its OK to tell strangers what to do. The A-Teamers are always going to be drunk. Not us normal people.
20:59 September 1, 2010 by Keith #5083
#the fonz

The most sensible suggestion to come out of these comments pops out from you.Thanks you. Systembolaget simply needs to update it's marketing strategies to better serve the modern age.

OOOps. And as an additional benefit it could be more jobs for people.

#12 Youdee

And as you rightly point out, the profits are recycled into the society - as opposed to shareholder's pockets.

But,hey, this is a stable democracy and there will always be those whose main sporting activity is the bouncing of conspiracy theories.
21:52 September 1, 2010 by glamelixir
Some people writing in this thread are ridiculously basic....
22:06 September 1, 2010 by samwise
if monopoly is so wonderful, why don;t we do that for everything else?

less bad effects, more good effects, sound quality, friendly cashiers, etc.

just have my life all planned out, must be better than I run ... my own life.

the sole purpose of life is to make the enlightened happy, fulfilled and satisfied, I suppose. what do I know after all.
23:28 September 1, 2010 by d_s

Is it a monopoly really? Or a monopoly of distribution via stores only?

Just a thought.
23:43 September 1, 2010 by procrustes
Ha. We have an election coming, folks, in which a party that promised to privatize state enterprises is running. The real problem is that Systemet is just too darn profitable and despite their so-called free market views, they don't want to let go. The report was needed for cover. Restricting supply of anything never restricts abuse. It a lesson that we are incapable of learning; e.g., the 1930's alcohol prohibition in the States and the current drug wars. Another lesson that we are incapable of learning, despite a thousand years of history, is that the consequences of censorship are ALWAYS far, far worse than the material being censored. It seems we are doomed to suffer the lessons endlessly because we refuse to learn.

My wife sums all this stuff up beautifully: "People ARE stupid."
04:04 September 2, 2010 by engagebrain
'15:42 September 1, 2010 by BarCode

There is good medical evidence that regular consumption of ethanol is healthy, and even heavy drinkers live longer than nondrinkers.'

Only someone who has regularly overdone the alcohol could write such complete rubbish.

If there is medical evidence quote the source.
06:25 September 2, 2010 by silly t
whats more evil? the ills from beer drinking or the proliferation of homosexuality?
12:48 September 2, 2010 by samwise

monopoly on distribution is a form of monopoly I guess, not on the production side though.

Let's have only one chain shoe store, I believe my wife won't waste as much money on those things. Monopoly distribution rocks. It's all for our own well being, you see.
15:58 September 2, 2010 by BarCode
Health effects of ethanol -- this is not my field, but I follow reviews of the work in Medscape, such as:

Alcohol Intake Linked to Risk for Diabetes, Insulin Secretion

In a new study, moderate daily alcohol intake was linked to a reduced risk for incident diabetes and to lower insulin secretion in patients assigned to ...

News, Medscape Medical News CME, October 2009

Lots more where that came from. Open your mind, and please refrain from ad hominem attacks, especially when you know nothing about me.
21:12 September 2, 2010 by Mr. Puppy
I used to think Systembolaget was a good idea until I got to know some Swedish alcoholics and realized that Systembolaget actually helps enable their alcoholism. When there is one store that only sells alcohol it reinforces the alcoholic's feeling that they don't have a problem because when they shop for alcohol they know everyone around them is there for the same thing. If alcohol were sold at regular stores they would feel much more conspicuous about their purchases. The fact is that if you evaluate it honestly, all it does is make it harder for people without problems to get alcohol whilst making it easier on alcoholics, thus supporting and promoting abuse of alcohol rather than responsible use. And this is coming from someone who used to vehemently defend it. Unfortunately the powers that be in Sweden have used their technique of 'nation-branding' on Systembolaget to ensure that it would be VERY difficult to get rid of... just like Sweden's drug policies and prostitution policies, Systembolaget is seen as a part of 'Swedishness' due to the heavy promotion of them by the media, ensuring that these policies will stay in place even when evidence surfaces that they do not actually achieve what they are supposed to achieve.
23:32 September 2, 2010 by soultraveler3
This is such BS! Lol, if the System is actually helping swedes drink less it's SCARY to think what would happen if they got rid of it.

Thing is, anyone with half a brain knows that system causes more problems than it solves. That combined with the weird attitude most swedes have about drinking is a huge probolem. Maybe having system in the first place was a source of that thinking.

Only in Sweden...

It's not ok to go out after work and have a couple drinks with friends or co-workers. If you're seen out at a pub during the week you're labeled as trashy or a junkie or an alcoholic.


You can binge drink till you pass out and be sh#t-faced all day friday and saturday and it's ok. This is the only country I've been in where you see people passed out on the street, in parks, in squares in the middle of town etc. on a regular basis and nobody seems to have a problem with it. On top of that there's the p#ss, puking, spitting and snus / fags everywhere.

Swedes and the swedish government need to wake up and realize that having every little detail of life micro-managed by someone else won't solve society's problems. People need to take responsibilty for themselves and be brave enough to tell the government and old jante-style traditions where to go.
01:13 September 3, 2010 by Homesoul
Had the government got rid of Systembolaget or they are just planning on doing it? It would be a shame if they did since the government would lose a lot of krone of revenue. As the Swedes binge drinking I had not seen it during my travels in Stockholm and it has been so long ago when you see drinking on a massive scale. If it happens in Copenhagen however I would stand corrected.
10:37 September 3, 2010 by d_s

So you are saying that in Sweden, one can only get spirits from Systembolaget?
12:36 September 3, 2010 by roodkapje
Nothing wrong with the system, it keeps the alcoholics out of the supermarkets.
13:59 September 3, 2010 by americanska
D_S - yes that is the case. Legally at least.

The goverment monopoly is a joke. To all you who say - "Selling goverment companies is not good because they are great revenue for the goverment."

Getting rid of the system would not be getting rid of the taxes - it would be allowing customers to choose and get either better service, price or convenience.

If you let large supermarkes sell it, they will provide a better price.

Meanwhile - specialist stores would open up and provide better service and knowledge at at slight premium.

Corner shops would sell it at a premium because they offer convenience.

Just like in every other modern country - other than Canada (they are also still a little backwards this way)
14:17 September 3, 2010 by IWP
This is nonsense, of course. The usual tired old Sweedle attempts to continue overpriced, inadequacy in the guise of 'so-called' social concern. The govt wants the tax revenue, that's about it. Swedes are the most irresponsible people around - they take no responsibility and are given none from the state. They are told what to do, what to think etc., from cradle to grave. Moronic inadequacy rules.

It really is time the rest of Europe (& elsewhere) woke up to the fact that Sweden is obsessed by its own bloated PR puffs and rhetoric. The EU should simply stop this continuing monopolistic crap. If there was a health/social concern, as others have remarked, what about tobacco sales? And what about Snus....the only EU country still permitting its sale!
14:52 September 3, 2010 by flintis
# what a load of old b!!!!cks
15:13 September 3, 2010 by CarstenTM
Eh, let's see, statistics are always difficult to compare, but I tried my best..

In Sweden, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01421.x/pdf

somewhere between 20 and 30 per100,000.

In the Netherlands


or about 5 per 100,000 for women and 20 per 100,000 for men.

That's about half.

Systembolaget vs. Free Market...

I guess we must conclude, then, that Swedes can't handle the responsibility of easy access to alcohol? Thankfully the Swedish state is there to watch over them.
15:31 September 3, 2010 by viejose
I read the following a not too long ago and I would like to share it with you all:

" The most effective deterrent against alcohol consumption in Sweden is the state monopoly of its sale"

The fact is the Swedes consumed less alcohol than most other nations within the EU (less than 5 liters per year, in terms of pure alcohol, compared with more than 11 liters in France and Portugal). But is true that Swedish moose have issues with alcohol. They don't recognize the difference between fermented and non-fermented apples.
17:40 September 3, 2010 by americanska
Also I think D_S is trying to say that a monopoly of distribution is OK because it's not a monopoly on prodution.

Wow - I don't think this guy know anything about economics.
11:17 September 4, 2010 by Daveo
Yea right. Did they come to the conclusion of this study over a couple of drinks??
Today's headlines
Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
Should Swedes think fairtrade with porn? Photo: Karin Malmhav/SvD/TT

A fairtrade attitude to pornography would be beneficial, Sweden's health minister told The Local.

Presented by Stockholm University
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

Nordic fashion took centre stage in the Swedish capital last week as Stockholm University hosted the “first-ever” academic conference looking at luxury and sustainability in the fashion industry.

Referee, coach and parents in Swedish youth football fight
File photo of a referee holding a red card not related to the story. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

A football dad broke his leg in the brawl in front of 11-year-old kids after a Hammarby youth football game.

Illicit abattoir kept more than 100 bulls' penises
A couple of young bulls not related to the story. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Dried cattle genitalia, goats' heads and hundreds of litres of lard were just a few of the many strange finds discovered when police raided a property in Sweden.

This is officially Sweden's most beautiful beard
The most beautiful beard in Sweden. Photo: Memo Göcek

According to a jury of barbers and 'well known bearded profiles', that is.

Presented by Invest Stockholm
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm

You might think it’s hard to make friends in a new city. But if at first you don’t succeed – try something else!

Injured Swedish photographer protected by 'guardian angel'
Swedish photographer Paul Hansen on another occasion. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Photographer Paul Hansen thanked his lucky stars for surviving sniper fire while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq.

How Sweden is trying to smooth relations with Saudis
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven meeting Saudi Arabia's Trade Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has visited Saudi Arabia a year and a half after relations turned frosty in a major diplomatic row.

My Swedish Career
'Swedish people love it, but they find it quite odd'
Scottish entrepreneur William Macdonald. Photo: Michael Campanella

Meet the web developer and entrepreneur using traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing to break the ice with Swedes.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available