• 2007-07-25
  • By Nicholas van Ostren, Kadriorg
I write to voice my support for the impending introduction of alcohol restrictions in Harju county (which encompasses more than just Tallinn 's though most Tallinners would be unaware of it).
I have long been surprised at the lax attitude to alcohol sales in Estonia, and at the poor social attitudes toward alcohol consumption. Visit southern Europe and one can see how a healthy concept of alcohol intake is fostered. Estonian youth are raised on the premise that one only drinks to get drunk. It is an attitude instilled by their elders, and passed on through the generations. Unfortunately little has been done to combat this. In fact, the current alcohol policy seems to encourage alcoholism.

Drinking is supposedly illegal in public, but who (aside from the Russians on riot night) has ever seen a policeman challenge a drinker on the street? It seems every tram or bus in Tallinn comes fitted with its resident beer drinker.
And as for alcohol sales, I find nothing more piteous than to visit my local "pood" in the morning to buy milk for breakfast, only to wait in line behind a pickled alcoholic purchasing his daily ration of poison. What kind of city allows alcohol to be sold so early? One that asks for its problems, surely.
One needs only to look across the Baltic Sea to find an example of a sensible alcohol policy. The Swedes long ago realized the need to control the spread of this legal drug through centralized government control. Even Finland has a better management approach 's although theirs is undermined by the close access to Estonia's free-flowing grog.

On August 1, when takeaway sales are stopped from stores at 8 p.m., Tallinn will become a better city for it. And to those who bemoan the change I say "Grow up!" Will it really be such an inconvenience to purchase you alcohol before 8 p.m.? Or to simply to a bar after that?
For once Edgar Savisaar and the Centrists in power at City Hall should be thanked. They have made a positive decision that will help clean up the city. It's a shame they didn't get more support from the Government on this issue.

However, these measures don't go far enough. I think it's appalling that one can walk into any supermarket or convenience store and purchase a bottle of beer with as much as 10 percent alcohol content. This kind of brew is intended for one thing only 's to help alcoholics sustain their habits more economically. It is sold to the young as a fast way to get drunk. It is the drink of choice for those aforementioned tram drunkards. When will the authorities realize the detriment caused by such a product? Again, look at Sweden, where beer is no stronger than 3.5 percent.

The whole nation, from the government down to families, needs to reconsider what the bottle is doing to society.

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