Norway has traditionally produced quite small quantities of alcoholic beverages, mainly in the form of beer. Recorded consumption of alcoholic beverages in Norway, in terms of pure alcohol per capita, has been among the lowest in Europe. [1]

A 1999 national survey from SIRUS (Norwegian Institute for Drug and Alcohol Research) found the rate of last year abstainers to be 11.2% (total), 9% males and 13.2 % females. [2]

In 2000, alcohol consumption per capita was 4.3 litres. [3]

Norway shows features of a typical low-consumption country with high abstinence rates and low frequencies and volumes of consumption among drinkers. Daily drinking is very uncommon and only 2.3 percent of men and .9 percent of women drank 4 to 7 times per week in 1995. The annual frequency of drinking 6 or more drinks on one occasion was 8.8 percent for men and 2.9 percent for women in 1996. [4]

Youth Drinking: Data from the 1999 ESPAD survey (total sample size 3918, age group 15 to 16) found that the rate of alcohol consumers was 16% (total), 18% males and 13% females. Alcohol consumer was defined as lifetime use of 40 times or more. [5] The same survey found the rate of youth binge drinking to be 24% (total), 26% males and 23% females. Binge drinking was defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row three times or more in the last 30 days. [6]

The SDR per 100,000 people for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis was 5.04 in 2000 and 4.23 in 2001. [7]

In a study that looked at autopsy protocols from 167 car drivers involved in traffic accidents in south-east Norway from 1994-1999 it was found that blood alcohol levels were above the statutory limit in 20% of drivers in both explained and unexplained accidents. [8]

Alcohol Policy

Following independence from Denmark, Norway experienced both an upsurge in distilled spirit production and the development of a temperance movement to address the increased consumption of spirits. During World War One, as a result of the strength of the temperance movement and devolution of regulatory controls to municipalities, complete alcohol prohibition was nearly reached in Norway.

In 1919, distilled spirits and fortified wines were prohibited through a nation-wide referendum, although both bans were revoked by 1927, at which time a comprehensive Alcohol Act was introduced. The main objective of state alcohol policy since then has been to minimise alcohol-related health and social problems, which is partially regulated through the state-owned monopoly, Vinmonopolet, controlling import, wholesale and off-premise sales of distilled spirits, fortified wine and table wine, import of beer and export of distilled spirits.

Beyond Vinmonopolet, the Ministry of Social Affairs coordinates the national alcohol policy and has a general responsibility for alcohol and drug issues concerning secondary prevention and treatment.

In the context of the European Alcohol Action Plan, Norway describes its alcohol policy as comprehensive. Priorities of the last years have been regulating alcohol availability, mass media campaigns to encourage safer drinking, using price policy to reduce alcohol demand, developing the role of the criminal justice system in the prevention and management of alcohol problems, and addressing particular alcohol problems such as drunk driving and youth drinking.[9]

Alcohol Advertising

In Norway, there is a total ban on the advertising of all alcoholic beverages containing more than 2.5 percent alcohol by volume. The Alcohol Act from 1997 states that any kind of advertising of alcoholic beverages aimed at consumers is forbidden. There are some exceptions, including advertisements in foreign printed publications imported to Norway, trade journals, advertisements for places of sale of alcohol, and light beer under 2.5 percent alcohol.[10]

[1] World Drink Trends (2002) (Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom, Productschap voor Gedistilleerde Dranken and World Advertising Research Center Ltd).

[2] 1999 National Survey. Statens institutt for rusmiddelfoskning (SIRUS) [Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research].

[3] & [4] Simpura, J. & Karlsson, T. (2001) Trends in Drinking Patterns in fifteen European Countries, 1950-2000. A Collection of Country Reports (Helsinki, Stakes).

[5] & [6] Hibell B et al. The 1999 ESPAD Report. The European School Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs: Alcohol and Other Drug Use among Students in 30 European Countries. Stockholm, Council of Europe, 2000.

[7] European health for all database. World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (

[8] Brevig T et al. Of what significance are diseases, intoxication and suicide in fatal traffic accidents? Tidsskrift For Den Norske Laegeforening [The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Assocation], 2004, 124(7):916-919.

[9] & [10] Karlsson, Thomas and Österberg, Esa. "Chapter 14: Norway." Alcohol Policies in EU Member States and Norway: A Collection of Country Reports. Esa Österberg and Thomas Karlsson, Eds. May 2003. P.321-340.