In Sweden alcoholic beverages with above 3.5% alcohol content are only allowed to be sold by the government-run alcohol retail monopoly ‘Systembolaget‘. This ensures that alcohol availability and affordability are regulated in the country and it removes the profit interest from alcohol sales, thereby protecting public health and safety. This policy keeps consumption and resulting alcohol harm low in the country. Swedish people strongly support this system and Systembolaget was in fact voted the most trusted institution in Sweden in 2020.
IOGT-NTO is convinced that Malmö’s decision in the Labor Market and Social Affairs Committee to allow home delivery of alcohol is violating the Swedish alcohol law. A municipal board does not have the authority to make such a decision because it is contrary to the Alcohol Act. IOGT-NTO has therefore chosen to appeal the decision to the administrative court and requests that the board’s decision be suspended until a verdict has been handed down in the case.
Malmö’s local politicians decided deliberately to violate the Alcohol Act adopted by the Swedish Parliament,” says Lucas Nillson, resident of the city of Malmö and Vice Chairman of IOGT-NTO.
Therefore, we have no other option than to resolve this issue in court.”Lucas Nilsson, Vice Chairman, IOGT-NTO
Big Alcohol seeks to undermine democratically agreed laws
The alcohol industry attempts to undermine the alcohol retail monopoly by exploiting gaps in the Swedish alcohol law. One of their newest strategies is the use of alcohol serving permits in connection with so-called micro-catering. It means that restaurants deliver alcohol, along with food, home to customers – even though this is against the Alcohol Act.
According to the serving permit connected to micro-catering a serving manager must be present throughout the serving. Therefore, delivering alcohol and leaving it at the door or even serving to the table and leaving is against the law.
Växjö municipality already in April gave a restaurant a permit for micro catering. Now Malmö municipality has done the same. The alcohol industry is exploiting the alcohol serving permit to circumvent the Alcohol Act and deliver alcohol to people at home under the guise of “micro catering”.
In the case of Växjö municipality IOGT-NTO’s protests against the decision led to the County Administrative Board announcing they would review the home deliveries. The decision also led to serious criticism from the County Administrative Board. Unfortunately, the criticism has not yet led to serious actions being taken as the municipality has not responded and the Administrative Board has no sanctioning powers.
…the restaurants continue as before. We are still waiting for a response from the municipality and we can not do more,” said Pia Rönn Johansson, strategist for social sustainability supervision at the County Administrative Board in Kronoberg, as per Accent. We have no sanction options.”Pia Rönn Johansson, strategist. social sustainability supervision, County Administrative Board in Kronoberg
In the case of Malmö municipality IOGT-NTO, a member organization of Movendi International, will be filing a legal notice to trigger a legality review. Lucas Nilsson, vice chairman of IOGT-NTO, will be filing the legal notice as only a private citizen has the right to do so. This notice means a court can examine whether the political decision is legal.
Lucas Nilsson emphasizes that he does not think that civil servants in the administration of Malmö have made a mistake.
This is the work of opportunistic politicians who want to undermine and erode the alcohol law in order to change it,” says Mr Nilsson, as per Accent.
Alcohol home delivery began in an extremly tiny scale in Växjö, but has now mushroomed in places all around the country.”Lucas Nillson. Vice Chairman, IOGT-NTO
Big Alcohol using gaps in policy to undermine Swedish Alcohol Act
Systembolaget’s alcohol retail monopoly (including home delivery) is threatened through alcohol delivery by restaurants; the profit interest is being introduced into alcohol retail; alcohol availability is increasing; there are serious problems to test compliance with alcohol rules, such as age protections. these serving permits connected to micro-catering as it allows for profit interest to enter into alcohol sales.
Increased alcohol availability leads to rising consumption and related alcohol harm.
Making alcohol more accessible increases the damage. Home delivery from a restaurant can be ordered any day of the week. The person who orders may already be [consuming] too much and have children at home,” added Mr. Nilsson.Lucas Nilsson, Vice Chairman, IOGT-NTO
As IOGT-NTO warns the biggest risk is political. This is another step to undermine the Swedish alcohol policy model and erode the alcohol law.
IOGT-NTO has predicted that this loophole in the law could be exploited to undermine the alcohol policy system when it came into being. Håkan Kjellsson, IOGT-NTO’s former association lawyer, was part of the investigation that produced the bill. In a special statement in the final report A New Alcohol Act , SOU 2009: 22, he wrote that more effective instruments are needed and that the state must have the right to appeal municipalities’ decisions in alcohol licensing matters.
It is a loophole in the legislation that the county administrative board is completely without tools to address,” wrote Håkan Kjellsson, previous IOGT-NTO association lawyer, as per, Accent.
It is a great shortcoming that those who have the task of reviewing the business conduct of alcohol sellers do not have the opportunity to appeal.”Håkan Kjellsson, previous IOGT-NTO federal lawyer
This is not the first or only time that the alcohol industry has tried to undermine the Swedish Alcohol Act by eroding legislation. In October, 2020 IOGT-NTO released a report exposing the multinational alcohol giant Pernod Ricard behind the push for so-called “farm sales” of alcohol in Sweden.
Exploiting the pandemic
It is especially perverse that the alcohol industry is exploiting the pandemic to justify illegal delivery of alcohol.
Limiting alcohol availability is recommended by the World Health Organization during COVID-19. Alcohol consumption is associated with violations of COVID-19 preventive measures such as physical distancing and protective mask use. In addition, reasons for reducing alcohol availability during the pandemic include:
- Alcohol weakens the immune system making people more susceptible to infections such as coronavirus.
- Alcohol is a risk factor for many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which are known to lead to more severe progression of coronavirus infection and increase risk of death from COVID-19.
- Alcohol-related diseases, injuries and accidents place avoidable strain on the healthcare system and emergency services which are at capacity due to the pandemic.
Now is not the time to ask how we can make alcohol more accessible, but how we can take responsibility and alleviate the pressure on healthcare and welfare systems – not increase it,” said Mr. Nilsson.Lucas Nilsson, Vice Chairman, IOGT-NTO
Accent: “IOGT-NTO reports Malmö“
Photo credit: Linda Håkansson