Alcohol Availability and Alcohol-Related Harm

Denmark decreased its tax on distilled spirits by 45% and three months later Sweden increased its import quotas on privately imported alcohol. This allowed Swedes, especially those living near the Danish border, to bring in much more spirits at much lower cost than before the changes.

The possible effects of these policy changes were investigated using interrupted time-series analysis with monthly data on numbers of hospitalizations for acute alcohol poisoning, number of violent assaults, and drunken driving for several years before and after the changes. Data from southern Sweden were compared with those from northern Sweden, which served as a control.

Following the decrease in tax on spirits and the increase in import quotas, there was no increase in violent assaults or in drunken driving but some increase in acute poisonings (largely among those above age 50) in southern Sweden.

These findings do not support the hypothesis that increasing the availability of alcohol leads to alcohol abuse and alcohol-related problems.

This website makes no suggestions or recommendations of any type about alcohol consumption and none should be inferred.


  • Gustafsson, N.K., and Ramstedt, M.R. Changes in alcohol-related harm in Sweden after increasing alcohol import quotas and a Danish tax decrease -- an interrupted time-series analysis fort 2000-2007. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2010. Advance Access 10.1093/ije/dyq153

Readings on Alcohol Availability and Alcohol-Related Problems:

  • Bloomfield K, Wicki M, Gustafsson N-K, Mäkelä P, Room R. Changes in alcohol-related problems after alcohol policy changes in Denmark, Finland and Sweden. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 2010;71:32-40.
  • Bloomfield K, Rossow I, Norström T. Changes in alcohol-related harm after alcohol policy changes in Denmark. Eur Addict Res 2009;15:224-31.
  • Gustafsson N-K. Alcohol consumption in southern Sweden after major decreases in Danish spirits tax and increases in traveller's quotas. Eur Addict Res 2010;16:152-61.
  • Herttua K. The Effects of the 2004 Reduction in the Price of Alcohol on Alcohol-Related Harm in Finland: A Natural Experiment Based on Register Data. Finnish Yearbook of Population Research No. 45, Supplement. Helsinki, Finland: Population Research Institute, 2010
  • Leifman H, Gustafsson N-K. A Study of the Alcohol Consumption in the Swedish Population at the Beginning of the 21st Century Research Report No. 11. Stockholm: SoRAD, SU; 2003. A toast for the new millennium.
  • Mäkelä P, Bloomfield K, Gustafsson N-K, Huhtanen P, Room R. Changes in volume of drinking after changes in alcohol taxes and traveller's allowances: results from a panel study. Addiction 2007;103:181-91.
  • Norström T. Cross-border trading of alcohol in southern Sweden—substitution or addition? In: Holder HD, editor. Sweden and the European Union: Changes in National Alcohol Policy and their Consequences. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International; 2000. p. 221-38.
  • Ramstedt M, Axelsson Sohlberg T, Engdahl B, Svensson J. Research Report no. 54. Stockholm: SoRAD, SU; 2009. Talk about/figures of alcohol 2008: a statistical yearly report from the monitoring study.
  • Ramstedt M, Gustafsson N-K. Increasing travellers' allowances in Sweden—how did it affect travellers' imports and Systembolaget's sales? NAT (Nordisk alcohol and narkotikatidskrift) [Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs] 2009;26:165-76.
  • Svensson J. Travellers' alcohol imports to Sweden at the beginning of the 21st century. NAT (Nordisk alcohol and narkotikatidskrift) [Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs] 2009;26:193-203.