As the sober curious and sober positive movement is gaining popularity in Switzerland, the products of the alcohol industry are becoming increasingly unpopular. More and more people are shunning alcohol to enjoy alcohol-free settings, environments, and experiences. Meanwhile, sober celebrities and influencers are promoting the way of life and attributing beauty, productivity, and success to being sober. This trend has increased the popularity of no- and low-alcohol products.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, the number of people using alcohol daily in Switzerland has halved since 1992. At present Swiss people consume about 50 liters of beer per person. In 1991 it was over 70 liters. Swiss youth are consuming alcohol a lot less frequently now.
Sober Inspiration worldwide
In recent years the alcohol-free, the sober curious, and sober positive movement has been growing worldwide, mainly driven by younger generations. However, this trend is not limited only to young people. Alcohol use is increasingly becoming denormalized. At the same time, staying alcohol-free is becoming more normal in society.
The new movement to embrace the benefits of the alcohol-free way of life has been taken up and promoted by influencers and celebrities across the internet. There are hundreds of blogs, Facebook groups, and podcasts that belong to the new sober positive movement.
For instance, the American model Bella Hadid embraced an alcohol-free way of life in 2021. American singer Katy Perry launched her own non-alcohol lifestyle drink called “Golden Hour”. The drink is promoted as fun and healthy. The fun aspect was for so long hijacked by the alcohol industry and now it is being claimed by alcohol-free products.
With the new sober positive movement, people’s idea of enjoyment and pleasure keeps shifting away from being alcohol-centric and focused on intoxication to being healthy while having a good time and being able to be productive the next day, instead of nursing hangovers.
In Switzerland, Jo Dunkel launched his alcohol-free spirit, Wald & Rauch, because he noticed a gap in the market for people who want more alcohol-free options. Mr Dunkel has been living alcohol-free for about three years. His invention has won several awards. Wald & Rauch has become very popular across bars in Switzerland. Bartenders are using it to create either low-alcohol cocktails or awesome alcohol-free drinks for customers.
In Germany, Nathalie Stüben is one of the most popular sober influencers. In her podcast, Instagram, and Youtube channels she talks to people in recovery as well as discusses the prevalence of stigma surrounding alcohol use problems in Germany. Ms. Stüben’s own story was published as a book and became a bestseller. She tells her story of how going alcohol-free changed her life for the better. In two interviews, she’s invited guests from the Movendi International movement – Rolf Hüllinghorst and Maik Dünnbier.
Millie Gooch from the UK is another great example of an alcohol-free role model for a new generation of young people. Ms. Gooch founded Sober Girl Society. Her book “The Sober Girl Society Handbook” is a bestseller. And she has shared her journey in an opinion piece on Movendi International’s Global Voices blog portal.
Such sober role models are important in normalizing the alcohol-free way of life in its diversity and multiple benefits. They also help replace the alcohol norm with healthier, more inclusive social norms.
Meanwhile, alcohol-free months, such as Dry January, have been helping people to reflect and question the role alcohol plays in their lives and explore life alcohol-free – for a moth, spring, or other period of time. Many participants of these alcohol-free challenges experience the benefits and so they reduce alcohol use or go alcohol-free for life. The Dry January challenge began in the United Kingdom (UK) and has now spread around the world also thanks to the support of Movendi International. Dry January is taking place in the United States (U.S.), Switzerland, France, Norway, and Iceland. This year, the Scandinavian countries have also joined for the first time, led by heart-driven Movendi International member organizations. Dry January has evolved beyond a challenge to a community of people who are challenging and changing pervasive alcohol norms within themselves and their communities.
Alcohol harms and policy in Switzerland
Markus Meury from Addiction Switzerland, the national competence center for prevention, research and knowledge transfer in the field of addiction, says the problems caused by alcohol products go far beyond the individual.
- Alcohol is the most common cause of death in men between the ages of 15 and 24.
- Half of all acts of violence are committed under the influence of alcohol in Switzerland.
- 11,500 times a year, people in Switzerland have to be hospitalized for acute alcohol poisoning.
- The economic follow-up costs associated with alcohol are estimated at CHF 2.8 billion.
This is why it is necessary to implement evidence-based alcohol policy solutions. While individual decisions to go alcohol-free are slowly changing the social norms and contribute to the creation of more inclusive social settings, better common-sense rules are needed to improve the protection of more people and communities from the harms caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry in Switzerland.
Switzerland currently does not have excise taxes on wine, despite almost half (48%) of the alcohol consumed in the country being wine. The legal age for alcohol use for beer and wine remains at low of 16 years, which leaves children and youth largely unprotected from the harm of early alcohol use. The country also lacks common-sense limits for on- and off-premise alcohol sales. Currently, the alcohol industry can do whatever they wish in terms of alcohol product placements. And Big Alcohol is allowed to keep people in the dark about alcohol harm because there is no legally required health warning labeling for alcohol products. These are all aspects of alcohol policy that Switzerland can improve on to better protect its people.
The new sobriety movement
The new sobriety movement is different from earlier alcohol-free movements. Those focused more on the social good of reducing and quitting alcohol. Some of those movements also had a religious dimension. Today’s iteration of the alcohol-free movement focuses more on the individual. It is about adapting and moving forward in life. People quit alcohol or reduce consumption because they realize the negative effects on their lives, well-being, relations, etc. and they want something better.
The resonating message with new sobriety is that those who live alcohol-free are healthier. This helps to feel good mentally, look and feel good physically, perform better at work, have better relations to one self and others, and become more successful in life.
The individualist nature of the new sober movement is perhaps to be expected. After all, the alcohol industry has kept promoting individual responsibility for years to avoid any accountability for the harm their products are causing. However, the alcohol industry makes most of its profits from heavy alcohol users, not those who consume in low doses. In Switzerland, 11% of alcohol users consume 50% of the total amount of alcohol.
While the latest iteration of the alcohol-free and sober positive movement may look individualistic there is abundant evidence that people want less alcohol in their communities for the benefit of everyone, not just themselves. For example in Switzerland, there are two very recent and compelling examples showcasing that people want healthy communities free of alcohol harm for everyone.
- Recently the Migros cooperative members in all ten regional cooperatives across Swizterland voted to keep Migros supermarkets, restaurants, and takeaways alcohol-free in the future.
- People shunned alcohol in motorway service stations which was introduced in 2021. So much so that many alcohol dispensing systems had to be removed since the sales were too low.