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State liquor stores moot higher tax on wine

TT/The Local/pvs · 26 May 2011, 09:00

Published: 26 May 2011 09:00 GMT+02:00

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A wine box typically contains the equivalent of four bottles of wine, but typically costs as much as three - a discount that the Systembolaget wants to see removed.

"We want to look over the possibilities for adapting alcohol taxes so that the quantity discount on box wine declines," said Systembolaget's press spokesperson Lennart Agén to the TT news agency.

The idea was described as "interesting" by a spokesperson for public health minister Maria Larsson.

Agén observed that a boxed wine is 15-30 percent cheaper than the equivalent quantity in bottles.

"The discount encourages the purchase of larger volumes and alcohol is no product which should be sold with a quantity discount," he said.

Lennart Agén explained that the purpose of a higher tax would be to get Swedish people to buy less wine by the box.

"If you pay as much for a box as for four bottles of wine the effect is that consumption declines," he said.

Sales of box wine have increased steadily in recent years and now account for around 60 percent of all wine sold at the Systembolaget.

Story continues below…

According to the latest figures Swedish average alcohol consumption declined somewhat in 2009, but remains high in a historical perspective.

Average alcohol consumption, measured as litres of pure alcohol, amounted to 9.3 litres per person aged 15 and over, according to a report published in February by The Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD) at Stockholm University.

Systembolaget's sales accounted for 62 percent of total sales with wine the most popular drink of choice, accounting for 41 percent of consumption, followed by beer and spirits on 35 and 22 percent respectively.

TT/The Local/pvs (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

09:46 May 26, 2011 by Rick Methven
Public health or stealth tax?
09:51 May 26, 2011 by HYBRED
Just another way of the government to suck every kronor they can out of the citizens.
09:54 May 26, 2011 by technoviking
People like it so it must be taxed into submission.

The nanny state has spoken. Obey children.
10:13 May 26, 2011 by uunbeliever
Well the state does have to pay for the medical and social problems caused by the inability of people to control their drinking.

@HYBRED and @technoviking did neither of you finish samhällskunskap A? How much money is spent on breaking up fights, dealing with hooligans, drinking and driving...osv osv.

The tax on alcohol should be 90%!!!
10:48 May 26, 2011 by BrittInSweden
@uunbeliever How many of those fights and hooligans that great stopped are from people drinking boxed wine at home?

Most of them are outside bars and clubs.

Think about things before you slam others thoughts.
10:54 May 26, 2011 by 4everlive
And consider, that quality wines are not been selling in boxes. Sometime you get relatively good wine, next time the same brand - just crap
10:54 May 26, 2011 by donutwallah
I don't understand why such a monopoly is still allowed under EU competition rules. That said, the nanny state would still indulge in social engineering through taxation even if there were competition.
10:55 May 26, 2011 by Frank Arbach
...quite right!

The Swedish government has concerns about alcohol consumption in what is arguably the world's most boring country....so lets not ban it outright, but show we disapprove of it by increasing the tax.

Won't stop folks drinking it but Hey! - think of all the extra money the state will get
11:11 May 26, 2011 by RobinHood
Many old school Social Democrats, such as those that dominate at Systemet, think the solution to every problem is to tax it. Of course, that never solves the underlying cause of the problem; it just makes Sweden a less pleasant place to live, work and do business.

Do I detect a note of irony in the government's response "interesting".

Alcohol misuse cannot be taxed or legislated away. The failure of prohibition taught us that. It is an extremely complicated and sensitive issue involving multiple factors. Slapping a tax on it and calling it fixed, is counter productive. That narrow-minded approach distracts resources from the far more effective measures of education and treatment.

Sweden has chosen the Moderate party over the Social Democrat party twice in succession. It's time to sack these sad Social Democrat Apparachiks from positions of authority such at leading Systemet. Their time has come and gone. Get some apolitical professional managers in, with fresh new ideas that properly reflect modern Sweden.
11:28 May 26, 2011 by engagebrain
On any reasonable assessment of heath cannabis is far safer than alcohol - and therefore should have a really low rate of tax.

So why is cannabis illegal but alcohol and tobacco legal ? governmental decisions should be evidence based.
11:30 May 26, 2011 by Great Scott
Total hypocrisy, I have heard that the Norwegians cross the border into Sweden on a regular basis to but tobacco at discounted prices.

The Swedish government once again stands with its mouth wide open, gobbing off at what's right and what's wrong, when they are committing a crime just as big if not bigger.
11:38 May 26, 2011 by J Jack
I like Zumbali because it is 129- sek per box and drinkable if well chilled. Very useful for cooking also. It gives me a break from an old whiskey habit so therefore helps to curb my appetite. If they put the prices up, I'll simply go back on the redeye in protest or move out of the country... it's easier and less stressful than complaining. I'll give a free box if you can tell me when they will apply the tax so I can stock up in advance. Vote for tax free alcohol, tobacco, meat & bensin! Increase taxes on Diesel, bicycles & ecological friendly foods.
12:37 May 26, 2011 by HYBRED

So I guess we should just hand all our money over to the government, and then we would be living in the garden of eden. According to you then, there would be no more medical or social problems, no more fights, hooligan problems would be a thing of the past. Maybe the government would give us a glass bubble to live in. Or in your case, a padded glass bubble with a helmet so you don't hurt yourself.

Get a grip!
12:39 May 26, 2011 by eppie
@J Jack

I see all the whiskey and cigarettes have destroyed your tastebuds. Indeed if it is just alcohol you are after box wines are a good alternative. And I am sure you are happy to hear that box wines are also more environmentally friendly because of their lower packaging weight.
12:56 May 26, 2011 by uunbeliever
@HYBRED, simple solution, don't drink.

@Brittinsweden, ever heard of domestic disputes? They often revolve around overconsumption of alcohol.

I was just pointing out that the money for medical care, police (domestic disputes) deaths caused by drunks and other social care has to come from somewhere. I pay a crapload of tax for the fuel I use in my car but certainly don't expect you to pay for it. I moderate my fuel consumption.

If people could take care of themselves and drink "lagom" the government (the taxpayer) wouldn't have to pay for the consequences.
13:31 May 26, 2011 by HYBRED

Simple solution?? Thats a joke right? Is this April 1st?

If people didn't drink they're would be a huge loss in tax revenue. The government would have to do something to offset it. Like made starting a internet access tax? How would you like your internet access cost to double? The internet causes more problems than drinking, look at the scams and perverts on the net. And then count in the loss of jobs at Systembaloget, As well as the loss revenue to the landlords that rent the store space. You should want people to drink more to keep likely tax burden off of yourself.
13:36 May 26, 2011 by uunbeliever

The costs that accumulate from the problems associated with drinking alcohol outweigh the taxes. Look at the US, no super high taxes on alcohol, no social services. See the connection?

On another note...

"Women whose partners had been drinking were significantly more likely to be injured than were women whose partners had not been drinking" According to the State of Colorado's Domestic Abuse Assistance Program (DAAP), 2006.

Keep drinking proles!

Keeping the proles drunk is the only ambition of this (and any) government...
13:53 May 26, 2011 by HYBRED

Correction: the ambition of the Swedish government is to suck every kronor out of the people, like I said to begin with. And they don't care if you are sober or not.
14:24 May 26, 2011 by Stickeroo
Seems like everyone is missing the point...including system bolaget. Box wine is cheaper because it is generally of poorer quality than bottled wine (even if it's the exact same wine because of how the wine can mature in a glass bottle with a cork) AND most importantly, tetra pack boxes are cheaper than glass bottles. Hence the cheaper price. Cheaper production costs = cheaper sales prices. So what they are doing in reality, is taking all the efforts that the wine makers have put into bringing their production costs down and making their products more competitive and more readily available even to those with limited budgets, and flushing them down the toilet. The only reason boxed wine is popular here is because it's cheaper...boxed wine is garbage. If they're going to raise the tax on boxed wine, they would have to do the same with bottled so that there is still a savings for the consumer. If they don't...I can see them getting dragged into court pretty damn quick!
14:47 May 26, 2011 by eppie

Almost right, but better than what most people wrote.

1: the type of wine put in boxes just like most other wines that are cheaper than 100 SEK/bottle, don't need to mature. The quality of the same wine in a box or a bottle will therefor anyway be the same.

2: prices can be lowm not cheap. :)

3:The main thing cheaper about boxes is bigger volume per package ratio, and much lower energy cost for shipping because of the low weight. I don't see a bag in box (with little tap etc) be so much cheaper than a simple bottle in terms of prodcution costs.

SO indeed you are right, it would be strange to make a much more efficient product just as expensive as the old heavy bottle. Systembolaget has a point though, but I don' really think the few kronor the boxes would become more expensive will really bring down alcohol consumption.
15:07 May 26, 2011 by Rick Methven

You are writing your opinion not fact. Experts in blind tasting of wines of the same vineyard and vintage found no difference. Only when they knew which one came from the bottle and which one from the bag did they go for the bottle.

My current favourite wine is Rawson's Retreat costs 75kr per bottle a box costs 259kr or 65kr a bottle. The 10kr a bottle saving for the box wine is made through lower shipping costs. The loss through breakage is much higher in glass and the amount of wine you can get in a standard container is around 15% more. The cost of bottling and individual labelling and corking for a bottle is also much higher than for a box. The end result is that the vineyard can sell the same wine cheaper in a box than in a bottle. The current alcohol tax is charged on a per bottle basis so you pay 4 bottles tax on a box. In actual fact all the saving that Systembolaget makes from selling boxes over bottles is not passed on to the consumer.

Increasing the price of a box by 25% would make it 324kr instead of 300kr for 4 bottles. The result for Systembolaget would be less profit as people would buy four bottles rather than 1 box.

A major advantage of box wine over bottles is that you will often drink LESS as if you just want one glass you can have it. leaving the remainder left in the box will not go bad ( unless you leave it for a month or so). On the other hand opening a good bottle of wine and drinking only one glass is a waste as with a day it will become acidic as it comes into contact with the air.

I, and most others will always drink the amount that we want to drink BUT if after I have had my last planned glass,, there was some left in a bottle, I would drink it rather than let it go to waste

This whole thing has been badly thought out by some self opinionated Systembolaget idiot thinking through the hole in his backside.
15:52 May 26, 2011 by Cosme Fulanito
"If you pay as much for a box as for four bottles of wine the effect is that consumption declines,"

How about not selling booze at all? that will also help to decline to consumption. Geniuses

sarcasm all over
16:08 May 26, 2011 by technoviking
@ Rick

"there was some left in a bottle, I would drink it rather than let it go to waste"

Exactly. I will polish off a half bottle that's laying around just so it doesn't go bad even if I wasn't necessarily gung ho on having a drink that night.

Boxes are much more partial normal healthy drinking.

This is completely, totally dumb.
16:48 May 26, 2011 by Beavis
Because of systembulls##t people have to stock up alcohol at home, the more they binge drink. The more restrictions you put on something, the more people will do it. Denmark has far less alcohol abuse problems than Sweden has. Alcohol is available everywhere at any time at resonable prices. Havent you idiots who want to control us learnt ANYTHING from teenagers!?
16:52 May 26, 2011 by rquick
Why not legalise marijuana? It can be taxed, and causes a lot less trouble. Never seen potheads rolling over, fighting with each other.
17:18 May 26, 2011 by sodafox
Interesting is the term to use... I wonder if the govenrment would consider it interesting to bring down the price of bottled wine to match the box price rather than the other way around...

Just a thought....
17:24 May 26, 2011 by Species125
Synonyms: Sweden, Smother, Suffocate, Stifle, Stomp, Squash, Silence, Suppress...
18:01 May 26, 2011 by soultraveler3
Rick is right.

In most studies professional tasters can't tell the difference between the stuff in the bag or bottle. People who say that all box wine is cheap crap are usually the same people who believe that you can't get a decent bottle of wine for under $50. It's just snobbery.

Besides being more environmentally friendly, boxed wine last longer and like others have said, probably leads to less drinking because you can choose to have just one glass with dinner.

They're just looking for more money.
18:20 May 26, 2011 by technoviking
Yeah, 5 years ago maybe box wine was all bad.

These days a lot of decent mid-level ones are out there because they know the market for it is huge. All that was missing was quality. Not anymore if you do your research.

Plenty of good ones out there.
18:48 May 26, 2011 by EtoileBrilliant
Swedes don't see anything wrong in an abusive monopoly. Just when I feel I'm falling in love with this country they come out with their Lutheran doctrine that proves that when it comes to anything to do with food and drink they are philistines who vote with their conscience and not with their palette.
19:23 May 26, 2011 by hilt_m
technically they get away with the monopoly because light beer is sold in supermarkets. I really hope they don't whack more tax on. Alcohol tax is already very high, on top of that is the 30% wage tax. So I have bugger all money and nothing to spend it on lol
07:58 May 27, 2011 by Kevin Harris
When I read some of the comments here, it makes me think some of you guys don't actually bother to read the news you comment on.

This proposal to increases the tax on boxed wine was made by Systemet, not the government. The government hasn't made any comment apart from a very minor official who said it was "interesting".
10:34 May 27, 2011 by jamesblish
Yes, they want to raise the prices and they probably will. Because they always get their way and everyone always agrees with them because they buy into the propaganda of the state monopoly. No ones stops to think why virtually every other country in the western world does pretty well without a state monopoly. You either outlaw liquor or you allow people to sell it and take responsibility for their own consumption, it's that simple.
10:44 May 27, 2011 by technoviking
@ kevin harriss

Yes, but the professional political mandarins who bounce from agency to agency like Systemet with no expertise in anything other than bureaucracy and ideology ARE the government.

@ unnbeliever

You sound like a former drunk or a Puritan. Which is it?
11:06 May 27, 2011 by Rick Methven

"@ unnbeliever

You sound like a former drunk or a Puritan. Which is it? "

or a matter of religion?

I need to go and see my mat Mohamed down the Systemet
12:12 May 27, 2011 by Kevin Harris

When I last looked, tax rates in Sweden were the prerogative of the Swedish government alone. Was there a revolution while I slept last night, or do you actually go through life believing Systembolaget controls the tax system?
12:58 May 27, 2011 by Merlot
Another way of getting more money from the people. More traffic to Denmark and Germany, more people who mak emoney selling stuff out of their garages...it is stupid!
14:50 May 27, 2011 by technoviking
@ kevin Harris

I don't recall anyone saying this was law yet do you?

In case you didn't know Systemet is owned by the government. This is similar to the military mandarins asking for a budget increase,etc.

It may be shocking to you but people may have

opinions on what government agencies recommend.

Should we only comment after the fact. Is that your supposed reasoning?
18:45 May 27, 2011 by Rick Methven
When I was in Systemet today, buying 3 boxes of wine, the woman in the checkout asked me if I had read the local paper today. I said I had not. When I got home, I took a look and saw why she asked me, there in big headlines was this story about increasing the price of boxes

She must have thought I was stocking up before the price went up, when all I was doing was getting in a supply for the weekends party
19:58 May 27, 2011 by jamesblish
The liquor monopoly was invented to control drinking. It's about as useful as keeping a state monopoly on food and limiting opening hours on grocery stores to control obesity. It's actually the exact same thing but the latter would be totally unacceptable.
18:11 June 1, 2011 by Kontrabass
I am sure, many public health specialists in other countries would be glad if they could have such a system which reduces alcohol consumption to such an extent. In any case cheap alcohol by special sales reductions should be avoided.
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