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Between 1890 and 1970 there was either prohibition or a permission required for purchase of alcohol, which according to the latest understanding is the main cause behind unfortunate habit of binge drinking - you drink as fast as you can whatever you have managed to get your hands on.
In 2004 the alcohol tax was reduced by 30% with the consequence of health issues and deaths in the alcohol dependent +50 age group. Alcohol consumption in the younger generations has been decreasing for the last couple of decades, and cheaper alcohol had no perceivable effect on that.
Since 2008 the tax has been rising again, and currently covers 120-130% of the total costs to society from alcohol abuse (health issues, job absence, violence etc), so government after government has found it difficult to change the policy radically. Even under strong pressure from EU.
One set of experts say that high taxes keep the general consumption down, and accordingly the heavy drinkers drink less, too. Another set says that the policy should focus on identifying heavy drinkers and people with addiction and helping them instead of "punishing" everyone. So far the policymakers have been listening to the first set.
I wouldn't be surprised if Finns drank more than Spanish or Greeks. We drink mostly at home, but not with meals. Half of the consumption is beer, mostly on weekends and especially during the summer months.
But mainly personal anecdotal evidence from my adventure with a group of Spanish and Italian students in Madrid some 20 years ago: at the end of a long night two of them told me they were really impressed that I showed no signs of being drunk after all the alcohol I had consumed and that they would be probably dead. I was a bit embarrassed since I indeed wasn't that drunk and merely felt just properly warmed up and all of a sudden felt like an old boozer :-)
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