Denmark has been criticised for its dangerously high rates of teen drinking in a new World Health Organisation (WHO) report.
The report presents the drinking habits of Europeans on a nation-by-nation basis and makes specific policy recommendations to countries – like Denmark – where high alcohol consumption is linked to high rates of disease and alcohol-related accidents.
In respect to Denmark, WHO researchers worried especially about how early Danes begin drinking and how much they drink. The latest studies show that on average Danish youth drink nearly twice as much alcohol as other Europeans their age.
The WHO is therefore urging Denmark’s new Social Democrat-led government to raise duties on beer, wine and spirits, and to raise the legal age limit for purchasing all types of alcohol from 16 to 18 years.
Under the current laws, beer, wine and other beverages with alcohol content of less than 16.5 percent can be sold to 16-year-olds.
The Social Liberals, who will be part of the new government, support the WHO’s recommendation. In their campaign platform they argued for doubling the duty on beer and wine – a move that would raise the price of a single beer by 0.77 kroner.
“Taxes and a higher age limit are some of the levers one must use to get young people to drink less,” Social Lib MP Manu Sareen told Berlingske newspaper.
The Social Dems and their main allies, the Socialist People’s Party (SF), campaigned on the promise of raising duties on junk food and cigarettes, but not on alcohol. That baffled the WHO researchers, who underscored that after smoking, excessive drinking is the Danes’ next largest health threat.
The SF supports raising the legal age limit for purchasing beer and wine to 18, but not raising the duties.
“It will only lead to massive cross-border shopping, and that doesn’t work for our tax policy,” said SF health spokesperson Jonas Dahl.
The WHO has moreover challenged the Danish government to formulate an organised national strategy to reduce per capita alcohol consumption.
The Social Dems said they would look closely at the WHO’s recommendations.
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