Booze-Buyer Turns Himself in to Police

beer cans

Árni Guðmundsson, an adjunct teacher at the University Iceland, turned himself in to the police on December 21 for the crime of buying 16 cans of beer from two online sellers. Police registered the charge and confiscated the alcohol, Vísir reports.

The act was something of a stunt, as Árni leads a group of parents against the advertisement of alcohol. By reporting his own crime he wished to highlight the contradictory state of alcohol policy in Iceland.

“The police have probably filed my report formally as is standard procedure,” Árni told Vísir. “They are probably investigating this crime and the operations of the two online sellers who delivered goods from a domestic warehouse. I sent a copy to the the district public prosecutor and the public prosecutor.”

“International orders” from local stock

In Iceland, retail of alcohol is a near-monopoly of the state liquor store, Vínbúðin, and advertisements of alcoholic products are prohibited. Despite this, a number of online stores have begun selling alcohol using a loophole. By establishing a foreign-based company, they can accept “international orders” while delivering quickly from stock held locally in Iceland.

Árni says his purchase of the alcohol was easier than ordering a pizza. He bought Icelandic beer that arrived half an hour after he placed the order. In his view, the beer should have travelled from the brewery in the north of Iceland to the capital area, been flown out of the country, back into it, gone through customs and then to the two young delivery men in order to comply with the law. He argues that this is illegal retail of alcohol.

Alcohol is also taxed at a high rate in Iceland, which should in theory discourage buyers. Árni argues that it is important for public health that alcohol access remain limited and says that only business interests are pushing for liberalisation of the law. “There is an effort to commercialise sale of alcohol in defiance of the ruling policy and law,” Árni’s group wrote in a letter to the Alþingi Ombudsman. “There has been a solid societal consensus about the law and mode of alcohol sales as they take into account both public health and welfare points of view (not least for children and youths) and business interests.”

Experts Alarmed by Surge in Daily Drinking Rates

bar beer alcohol

According to a physician at the National Centre of Addiction Medicine (SÁÁ), the surge in online alcohol sales poses a concern for public health. Over the past four decades, the daily alcohol consumption rates among patients admitted to the Vogur Detox Centre and Rehabilitation Hospital with alcohol-related issues has more than tripled, Vísir reports.

Improved access, increased consumption

At a Nordic conference on alcohol and public health held yesterday, the impact of increased access to alcohol on consumption rates was a focal point of discussion.

In his opening remarks, Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson expressed concerns over the rising levels of alcohol consumption, emphasising the irrefutable evidence that greater accessibility leads to higher usage rates. “Undeniably, better access results in increased consumption. This is an empirical fact that we must acknowledge and confront, particularly in our preventive efforts,” Minister Willum asserted.

Daily alcohol consumption on the rise

Lára G. Sigurðardóttir, a physician at the National Centre of Addiction Medicine (SÁÁ), echoed the minister’s sentiments in an interview with Vísir. She highlighted statistics that indicate a significant surge in daily alcohol consumption.

Read More: IR speaks to Dr. Lára Sigurðardóttir about nicotine pouches

Data from the Vogur Detox Centre and Rehabilitation Hospital reveals that around 1990, approximately 17% of patients admitted for alcohol-related issues consumed alcohol daily. Fast forward to last year, and that figure has skyrocketed to 66%. “Moreover, over 70% of patients aged 50 and above are daily alcohol consumers. The trend is particularly pronounced among older demographics,” Dr. Lára noted.

Dr. Lára also expressed concerns over legislative pressures to privatise alcohol sales, a move she and other experts warn could exacerbate the issue. “That’s the alarm that all the experts today have been sounding,” she added, noting that the online sale of alcohol has greatly increased public access.

In conclusion, Dr. Lára advocated for the retention of a state monopoly on alcohol sales, citing its proven efficacy in preventive measures. “A state monopoly remains the most effective sales model for mitigating the public health risks associated with alcohol consumption,” she stated.

This article was updated at 08:56