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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 November 2006, 15:20 GMT
Alcohol now Finland's top killer
View of Helsinki
Alcohol consumption has soared in Finland following a tax cut
Alcohol has become the leading cause of death in Finland for men, and is a close second for women, a study says.

Figures for 2005 released by the state statistics agency showed alcohol killed more people aged 15 to 64 than cardiovascular disease or cancer.

Almost as many women died of alcohol-related causes as breast cancer last year.

Alcohol consumption in the Nordic country has risen steadily over the past 20 years, correspondents say.

About 2,000 Finns died of alcohol-related causes last year - 150 more than in previous years.

Each Finn drank on average the equivalent of 10.5 litres (22 pints) of pure alcohol in 2005.

Alcohol was also found to be a contributory factor in suicides, and intoxication is involved in nearly one in four deaths caused by accidents or violence, the figures showed.

Map of Finland

"If the trend continues, we are talking about a significant matter even from the point of view of the economy, because people of working age pay the pensions of the coming generations, and keep the economy competitive", Ismo Tuominen, a Ministry of Social Affairs and Health senior official, told Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.

Alcohol import quotas were reduced and a 40% cut in taxes on spirits was introduced two years ago.

Parliament is considering ways of bringing alcohol consumption under control - including health warnings, an end to bulk discounts and restrictions on TV advertising, reports say.

Another proposal is to ban retail sales of alcoholic beverages before 0900 hours. Currently, stores can sell beer and cider from 0700.

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