SYSTEMBOLAGET - Or here you get as much drinks as you like!


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Alcohol sales in Sweden are heavily restricted with the state operating a monopoly for the sales in package form of all spirits, wine and strong beer. The only alcoholic beverages allowed to be sold outside the state-owned alcohol retail-monopoly Systembolaget are those containing less than 3.5% alcohol by volume.

One reason for the strict alcohol policy in Sweden is the fact that the country historically has experienced large problems with alcohol abuse. The serious problems started in the 19th century and the main reason for this was the decision at end of the 18th century to let home-distilling become totally free. All persons were free to distill as much as they wanted, and anyone who produced his own spirits was also allowed to sell it to others. This deregulation resulted in the historically highest consumption of alcohol ever in Sweden.

The average consumption of the total population (children included) was 45 liters of liquor per person and year. The drinking was soon considered a gigantic threat to the public health, and the reactions were numerous.

A temperance movement was established, and in 1860 distillation for private consumption was prohibited. The production of spirits was taken over by private companies that soon came under state control.

The alcohol control system became harder and harder, and in 1919 a system with a ration book, the motbok, was introduced in the whole country. This system allowed the holder to purchase a limited quantity of alcohol each month. The government’s attitude on alcohol was hard and it was close that alcohol was totally prohibited; in 1922 a referendum was held about total prohibition and the vote for prohibition was 49%. This hard attitude on alcohol maintained until 1955 when the abolishment of the motbok started a loosening up of the control system. This led to an immediate large increase in the population’s level of alcohol consumption. In one year the sales of alcohol increased with 25% and the drunkenness misdemeanors were doubled.

During the 50 years that has passed since the abolishment of the motbok the drinking pattern in Sweden has radically changed. As mentioned above Sweden has traditionally belonged to the “spirits-drinking countries”, but during the last 50 years the consumption of spirits has decreased substantially while the consumption of wine and beer has increased (Leifmann 2001).

The dominant alcoholic beverage is nowadays the strong beer that accounts for 29% of the total alcohol consumption (Folkhälsoinstitutet 2005). The change in the drinking pattern is partly explained by government policies. One example of such a policy is the introduction of the medium-strength beer. The current limit of maximum 3.5% alcohol by volume has applied since 1977. Prior to 1965 the limit was also 3.5% but this year the state introduced medium-strength beer with maximum alcohol content 4.5% by volume, and allowed it to be sold in grocery stores. The reason for this was concerns about too high consumption of spirits and the purpose of the introduction was to encourage consumption of beverages with lower alcohol content. The consequence of the introduction was a sharp increase in beer consumption. The authorities were worried about the increased alcohol consumption, particularly since the reports said that the increase was largest among youth. This led to a withdrawal of the medium-strength beer from the grocery stores in 1977 (Nilsson 1984).

At the end of the 1970’s the trend of increased consumption of alcohol was interrupted. The reason was probably more active measures from the authorities such as campaigns and information about the risks associated with alcohol. The consumption has since then been fairly stable.

Systembolaget, the Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly, exists for one reason only:
To minimize alcohol-related problems by selling alcohol in a responsible way, without profit motive. (We're supposed to make a certain profit, but if it's too big we have to lower our prices.)

This has worked well: Alcohol-related problems are smaller in Sweden than in comparable countries where alcohol is sold freely.

The Swedish model isn't always convenient for the consumer - the stores aren't open all night, and you won't find one on every corner.

But a majority of the Swedes are supportive. Partly because they appreciate our significance for the public health. And partly because they like our stores. (We offer one of the world's biggest selections of alcoholic beverages, and our employees really know their Chardonnays from their SauvignonBlancs.)

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