Moderate advertising The historical development of the regulation of alcohol advertising in Sweden 1950–2003

Kerstins Rum Session 7: History of consumption organized by Fia Sundevall


Michael Funke


Moderate advertising The historical development of the regulation of alcohol advertising in Sweden 1950–2003 The study investigates the historical development of the regulation of alcohol advertising in Sweden during the period 1950–2003. It centers on how central stakeholders (companies, business associations, temperance movement, consumer and state representatives) promoted their interests in the policy process of alcohol advertising regulation. The period contains central discussions about how alcohol and alcohol advertising should be regulated, and subsequent rule changes and institutional development both within legislation and self-regulation of alcohol advertising. Unlike most products on the competitive consumer market, which can be advertise freely to compete and increase market shares, advertising for alcohol is constrained by wider public considerations of its inherent adverse effects. This sets the scene for a complicated policy process of regulation, with a diverse group of stake holders vying for influence. The topic has not been previously investigated, and even on an international level, historical studies of regulatory development for alcohol advertising are few. This analysis will consequently make an important contribution to regulatory studies and advertising history.

The starting point of the period is linked to the emergence of a more liberalized consumer market after the abolition of the “motboken” rationing system in 1955. This put the regulation of alcohol advertising in focus, primarily due to fears that advertising would promote overconsumption, causing negative social effects and deteriorating public health. Advertising was therefore discussed and assessed in relation to promoting either a moderate consumption or as public health hazard that had to be banned. By the end of the 1970s, a very strict statutory regulation was implemented, in effect creating a ban on alcohol advertising. The end point is in turn linked to a liberalization of alcohol advertising in the wake of Sweden’s entry into the EU. This culminated when the ban on alcohol advertising was ruled as counter to EU regulation by Swedish courts, in effect introducing new legislation in 2003 that permitted advertising of wine and beer in the press.

Previous research on the general development of Swedish advertising regulation during the 1950s and 1960s has shown that the development was not self-evident, but dependent on the strategic actions of key stakeholders (Funke, 2015). A cursory study of sources indicates a similar policy process with regards to alcohol regulation: changes did not follow a pre-determined trajectory, instead, the policy process exhibits several signs of key stakeholders trying to impose their opposing interests, causing it to develop in an unpredictable manner. The role of self-regulation also seems important in overall regulatory development, although its influence appears to vary over time. The design of the study is therefore based on these conclusions about the importance of agents in regulatory development, and the interaction between self- and statutory regulation. Michael Funke Ph. D. Dept. of Economic History, Uppsala University The Institute for Economic and Business History Research (EHFF), Stockholm School of Economics


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