Celebrities urged to stop drinking

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State health authorities have enlisted the aid of well-known Norwegians to reduce alcohol consumption, by urging them to abstain from any wine, beer or liquor over a two-week period. Among those signing up are skiing star Vibeke Skofterud and the new head of the state police system, Øystein Mæland.

“It’s been easy to get those we asked to go along, because they think it’s necessary to reflect on the relation we have to alcohol,” state health director Bjørn Inge Larsen told newspaper Dagsavisen. He hopes it will all lead to a reversal of what he thinks may be a long-lasting and damaging change in the patterns of Norwegian alcohol consumption.

Discouraging drinking
State authorities in Norway have a long tradition of discouraging drinking, by restricting access to beer, wine and liquor and making it expensive through the imposition of punitive taxes. Drinking patterns started to change several years ago, when consumption of liquor declined while wine-drinking increased.

Now it’s fairly common for Norwegians, many of whom drank alcohol only on weekends and then often to excess, to have a glass or two of wine every day as they adopted more continental habits. Some have even come to believe that it’s healthy to drink wine on a daily basis.

That makes Larsen shudder. “There is no evidence that drinking less but more often offers a health advantage,” he claims. He’s clearly worried that overall alcohol consumption in Norway has increased 40 percent in the past 15 years, according to new statistics from the health ministry.

‘White weeks’
The new campaign basically urges what the Norwegians call hvite uker, literally “white weeks,” but used in this context as alcohol-free. The celebrities will abstain, then urge others to do the same, in a sort of national relay.

“We can’t hope that folks will stop drinking entirely,” Larsen said. The best he’s hoping for, he said, is that people will become more aware of how much they drink and that the increase in how much Norwegians drink will stagnate.

State police director Mæland noted that his colleagues see the effects of alcohol consumption on a daily basis. “We experience the worst consequences of over-consumption,” he told Dagsavisen. “That’s why we’re glad to take part in the campaign.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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