On October 3-4 top researchers and professionals from the Nordic and the Baltic countries meet in Riga, Latvia, to discuss research-based alcohol policy.

Both specific Nordic and Baltic problems will be presented and evaluated. At the end of the meeting, there will be a panel discussion about options for future regional (Nordic-Baltic) perspectives on alcohol policy. The initial starting point is those common goals could serve the region as a whole in a European context.

Alcohol represents the third most serious risk factor of ill health in the industrialized world. In Europe, alcohol consumption has been found to be a major factor to affect the public health in general. Although this also applies to the Baltic and the Nordic countries, the strategies to encounter and reduce alcohol problems have differed between the regions.

The comprehensive goal of Nordic alcohol policy has been to impact the total consumption by restricting the availability of alcohol. During recent years this traditional political strategy has been undermined by the European Union's aspirations for a common inner market, which includes alcohol. Research has played an important role in the debate about the changes and has emphasised the fact that alcohol should not be treated as an ordinary commodity, but as something with immediate effects on public health.

Alcohol consumption has also increased in the Baltic region during the last decades. However, data on alcohol consumption have to be interpreted carefully since studies show very high levels of unrecorded consumption as well as illegal import and production.

Research on people´s attitudes towards alcohol policy shows that the general level of support for control policies is relatively high in the Baltic countries. In accordance, there has been an increased interest in alcohol issues in the Baltic states. Latvia's first alcohol policy programme was approved by the government this year.

The research-based seminar “Alcohol – use, harms and policy” is initiated by the Nordic Council on Alcohol and Drug Research (NAD) and carried out together with Nordic Council of Ministers' Office in Latvia.