IOGT-NTO traditionally celebrates the Week of Public Sobriety (Folknykterhetens vecka) on Ascension Day in May every year. However, IOGT-NTO districts and associations usually organise activities throughout the week. The week is also recognized as a political campaign where important drug policy issues are highlighted.
In 2023, the IOGT-NTO’s outward-facing campaign focuses on lobbying local politicians to establish effective preventative measures against alcohol and other drugs in their communities. The organization has assessed its districts and compiled a list of municipalities where such advocacy efforts should be undertaken.
The campaign emphasizes the necessity of addressing alcohol’s influence on society to progress towards the global goals of environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
Social Sustainability and Alcohol’s Impact
In Sweden, many individuals suffer due to their own or others’ misuse or alcohol addiction. Many sick leaves, violent crimes, property damages, fatal car accidents, and instances of mental health problems among children are alcohol-related.
Approximately 17 per cent of all children grow up in homes affected by substance misuse, mental health issues, and/or violence. This exposure increases their risk of developing substance misuse and mental health problems, often negatively affecting academic performance and outcomes.
Even during pregnancy, exposure to alcohol leads to various neurological and behavioural disorders. The negative impacts include stillbirth, miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, impaired growth in the womb, and a range of lifelong conditions known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
Public Health Concerns
High blood pressure is another public health issue, with approximately one in five people in Sweden affected, a number that rises with age. By age 65, over half the population has high blood pressure. Like cancer, there is a clear correlation between high blood pressure and alcohol consumption.
A recent Sifo survey revealed that one in five Swedes is unaware that alcohol causes cancer. Fewer still know that even low consumption of alcohol increases the risk of cancer, despite current research clearly indicating that all alcohol consumption increases cancer risk.
Harmful use or dependence on alcohol is the most common cause of mental health problems, particularly among young people. The established knowledge of the relationship between youth alcohol consumption and mental health strongly incentivizes drug prevention and health-promoting measures for young people.
The Economic Cost of Alcohol Consumption
The societal cost of alcohol consumption is significant. Children, substance misusers, relatives, co-workers, and victims of crime are adversely affected, and someone always has to foot the bill. Often, it is municipalities and regions that pay, meaning they stand to benefit the most from discussions about the significance of alcohol.
The “Dare to Talk About Alcohol” campaign encourages dialogues with politicians about how they can establish effective preventative measures against alcohol and other drugs in their communities.
Tips for Associations
The campaign encourages collaboration between active associations, particularly in municipalities where several are present. It also suggests further advocacy work, such as inviting a municipal councillor for lunch to discuss IOGT-NTO or inviting political parties to a Drug Fight, a light-hearted quiz competition with a serious theme.
Associations are advised to follow a checklist for lobbying local politicians, prepare information packs, and coordinate with other active associations in their area. They should also consider additional advocacy work, such as submitting proposals or questions to municipal councils and engaging with the local press for increased visibility.
The Week of Public Sobriety campaign offers an opportunity for organizations and individuals to raise awareness of the impact of alcohol on society and work towards creating a more sustainable future. By engaging in advocacy and raising awareness, participants can help address the social, economic, and environmental consequences of alcohol consumption and work towards a healthier, more sustainable society.
Find more from IOGT-NTO (Sweden, May 2023)