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Increasing traveller's allowances in Sweden - how did it affect travellers' imports and Systembolaget sales?
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
2009 (English)In: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (English Edition), ISSN 1455-0725, Vol. 26, no 2, 165-176 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]


The aim of this study is to illuminate: 1. If the increases in travellers´ allowances in 2002, 2003 and 2004 have been associated with increasing travellers’ imports in Sweden? 2. How the (conceivable) effect was distributed during the following year? 3. If there were regional and beverage-specific variations in these effects? 4. How the patterns of change correspond to changes in sales at Systembolaget?

Data and Method

Data were obtained from a monthly survey and aggregated into annual and quarterly estimates of beverage-specific amounts of imported alcohol per adult for southern, mid- and northern Sweden as well as for the whole of Sweden. In the analysis subsequent quarters are compared after each quota change with the same quarters the previous year as well as with corresponding changes in sales at Systembolaget.


The increase of spirits allowances in 2002 was not followed by a significant increase in any travellers’ imports. The more substantial increases for all beverages in 2003 and particularly 2004 were followed by significant increases in the whole of Sweden and particularly in the Southern of Sweden. The quarterly changes, however, showed signs of a declining “charm of novelty” effect. Systembolaget sales only partly developed in the opposite direction of imports, suggesting that substitution did not always occur.


Travellers’ imports increase with more liberal allowances but the magnitude of the effect depended on several factors, e.g., the proportion of the change and region in terms of distance to the Danish and German borders. Other factors seem to be changes of alcohol taxes in neighbouring countries, domestic availability and travelling habits. The declining “charm of novelty” effect suggest that the longer term implications of repealing these quotas may be less significant than was expected in the earlier public discussions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Helsinki, Finland: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) , 2009. Vol. 26, no 2, 165-176 p.
Keyword [en]
travellers’ allowances, alcohol, price, import quotas, Systembolaget, Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-32152OAI: diva2:279663
Gränslösheten och den nordiska alkoholpolitiken. Nordic Alcohol Policies and the Challenges of Borderlessness. (GRAN)Effects of major changes in alcohol availability (Nordic Tax study)
Available from: 2009-12-04 Created: 2009-12-04 Last updated: 2010-05-03Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Bridging the world: Alcohol Policy in Transition and Diverging Alcohol Patterns in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Bridging the world: Alcohol Policy in Transition and Diverging Alcohol Patterns in Sweden
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The present dissertation aims at analysing the effects of recent alcohol policy changes. The traditional strict policy in Sweden had focused on high pricing and limited availability to control levels of alcohol consumed and thus alcohol-related harms. However, increased travellers’ allowances meant larger availability of cheaper alcohol when importing from Denmark and Germany, which are the countries from which Swedes obtain most of their private imports; the tax decrease in Denmark further decreased the price. As the economic literature links demand to price of a commodity and the early (smaller) quota changes had resulted in higher consumption in southern Sweden, it was expected that these latest changes would mean higher consumption and more alcohol-related problems in this area in particular. Some groups were additionally expected to be more affected than others.

The present compilation thesis comprises four related articles and an introductory chapter that ties them together. Article I focuses on private imports in relation to quota changes 2002 – 2004 and relate this to purchase at the alcohol monopoly stores. Self-reported consumption and alcohol-related problems are studied in Article II and IV. In Article III, register data on alcohol-related harms, i.e. hospitalizations and police-recorded crimes, are analysed.

The results of the dissertation were puzzling, since there was no large increase in consumption or alcohol-related problems in the south, but increases in the north during the period. However, private imports and cases of hospitalization due to alcohol poisoning were found to have increased in the south. Thus, the results imply that these policy changes had an effect on private imports, but that this effect was not large enough to increase total consumption as well. Additionally, increased alcohol poisoning cases implied that there had been an impact among high consumers. The increases found in consumption and problems in the north may instead have other explanations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, 2010. 57 p.
Stockholm studies in sociology, ISSN 0491-0885 ; N.S., 42Dissertations at the Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD), 9
alcohol consumption, alcohol-related consequences, availability, price, EU, social change
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-38858 (URN)978-91-86071-39-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-05-28, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: In press. Paper 2: Submitted. Paper 3: Submitted.

Available from: 2010-05-06 Created: 2010-05-01 Last updated: 2015-06-16Bibliographically approved

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Ramstedt, MatsGustafsson, Nina-Katri
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