Established in 1922, the state alcohol retail monopoly ÁTRV is the exclusive place where alcohol can be sold in Iceland.
The Icelandic law on the sale of alcohol and tobacco provides ÁTVR – State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland – with a monopoly of retail sales of alcoholic beverages. ÁTVR is a state-owned company and falls under the Ministry of Finance. The purpose of the Icelandic Alcohol Act is to work against the misuse of alcohol, but the role of the monopoly is to attend to matters related to the sales of alcohol (and tobacco).
After a previously failed attempt, a new bill was introduced to the Icelandic Parliament, seeking to privatise alcohol sales. The author of the bill is Independence Party MP Vilhjálmur Árnason. MP Árnason had submitted the same bill last year, where it subsequently died in committee. Despite the setback, he vowed to submit it again. The move has received wide criticism for its likely effects on increasing alcohol consumption and alcohol harm.
This time around, however, it has the support of several MPs from not only the Independence Party, but also the Progressives, Bright Future, and the Pirate Party. The bill argues that allowing the private sale of alcohol would increase competitiveness and variety, be beneficial for people living in the countryside, and would have no long-term effect on how much alcohol Icelanders already consume.
None of these points hold up against independent evidence, established over many years of research concerning the effects of alcohol retail monopolies on protecting public health, serving their customers extraordinarily and delivering best at protecting children and youth from alcohol.
Amongst other changes, the sale of alcohol would be allowed in private shops and if passed into law, the legislation would change the name of the governing body concerning alcohol and tobacco, the ÁTRV, into just “the State Tobacco Company of Iceland”.