State liquor stores moot higher tax on wine

Sweden's state-run alcohol retail monopoly Systembolaget has demanded an extra tax on box wine equating a price hike of up to 25-30 percent in order to curb the thirst for bag-in-box wines.

State liquor stores moot higher tax on wine

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.

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.

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Swedes warned: Vodka won’t protect you from the coronavirus

Sweden's state-run alcohol chain Systembolaget has advised customers not to buy its spirits as a substitute for hand sanitiser.

Swedes warned: Vodka won't protect you from the coronavirus
Stockholmers queuing outside Systembolaget before Easter. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

One of the best ways of avoiding the new coronavirus and prevent its spread is to wash your hands often with soap and water, according to the Swedish Public Healh Agency.

If you don't have access to soap or running water, hand sanitiser is the next best option, but the product has been flying off the shelves as shoppers try to get their hands on a bottle.

Sweden's state-owned alcohol chain Systembolaget has been forced to put up signs in several of its stores informing customers that alcohol such as vodka and gin does not work as a substitute for hand sanitiser.

“NOT HAND SANITISER,” read the signs.

“We have had a few questions from customers and have put up signs in those stores,” said Systembolaget press officer Therese Elmgren.

“But it is not possible, just as the signs say. The percentage (of alcohol) needs to be higher.”

An alcohol concentration of at least 60 percent is needed for disinfectant to be effective in killing viruses or bacteria. Absolut Vodka, to use an example of a popular Swedish vodka brand, has an alcohol concentration of 40 percent.

However, some of the ingredients are the same, and during the coronavirus crisis Absolut has adapted parts of its manufacturing in order to produce pure alcohol which can be used for cleaning purposes, instead of vodka for consumption. This pure alcohol then needs to be mixed with gel, manufactured separately, to create usable sanitiser for the healthcare sector.