Do we still need Alcohol Monopolies in the XXIst Century?

Posted : 01/16/2005

Alcohol is a product like none other. All over the world, governments regulate its sale and promotion. Many measures restrict the “free trade” of alcohol, such as the requirement of special licences to sell, control of advertising and promotion, laws forbidding sales to minors, etc. In some countries, the alcohol industry imposes its own restrictions through self-regulated codes of ethics.

In the 20th century, a number of governments decided to establish retail alcohol monopolies. Today, however, those retail alcohol monopolies seem to exist for two apparently conflicting reasons: to provide revenue to their governments and to protect and promote public health (CAMH, 2004; Room, 2001). Of the two, commercial and economic considerations have prevailed, as increasing emphasis is placed on customer convenience, efficient distribution and higher sales. This trend has been attributed to international pressures for freer markets and undistorted competition (Giesbrecht, 2000; Hauge, 2004; Holder et al., 1998; Room, 1987; Sulkunen et al., 2000), as well as to domestic demands for increased customer satisfaction and pressures for a more “liberal” society with less government control. In fact, retail alcohol monopolies can only exist as long as they are considered desirable by a majority of the people they serve.

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