HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish researchers are recommending that beer and other drinks with more than 3.5 percent alcohol be banned from grocery stores to curb alcohol-related deaths.
The joint study by three research institutes said that restricting the availability of higher-alcohol drinks in Alko, the state monopoly liquor store, would save around 350 people a year from alcohol-related deaths.
Around 3,000 people die in Finland each year because of diseases or incidents related to alcohol.
The suggested ban would be modeled on a similar move by neighboring Sweden in 1977, which helped curb alcohol-related deaths.
Finland's current limit for alcohol content at grocery stores is 4.7 percent.
The report on Thursday said Finland's alcohol consumption is now highly problematic, having tripled from 1968 to 2009, with the quantity of pure alcohol consumed by each person estimated at around 10.2 liter per year. Deaths directly caused by alcohol have also tripled.
Any move to reduce the alcohol content in beer in stores would reduce total alcohol consumption by 9 percent, researchers say.
"The public health and economy would benefit. There would be a bigger work force, and public health costs would fall. Some jobs would be cut in the brewing industry, but restaurants would need more workers as demand shifts," said Aki Kangasharju, the head of the Government Institute for Economic Research.
"It is not a matter of beer taste, there are plenty of tastes around with 3.5 percent. It is more of a cultural thing."
Pia Makela from the National Institute for Health and Welfare said Finns' typical drinking habits had changed from the occasional, heavy binge to more frequent drinking.
"People still drink a lot at a time, but additionally they drink smaller amounts more regularly. Liver cirrhosis deaths have increased a lot," she said.
Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl