Prohibition – Iceland

In northern European countries liquor control has reflected concern for the prevention of alcoholism. Various cultures differ considerably in their attitudes toward drinking as well as their systems of control. Drunkenness is not strongly condemned, and the drunkard is simply prevented from harming himself or others. Other cultures may show high acceptance of drinking as a social custom with a norm directing moderate use.

An illumination of two intoxicated 15th century Icelanders

An illumination of two intoxicated 15th century Icelanders

This North-West outpost of Scandinavia has been a Free State since 1918. Long before that date alcoholism was under the serious consideration of Parliament, and a remarkably thorough Prohibition Bill was introduced.
Iceland voted for complete prohibition in 1908. It was an immediate success, for most of the islanders were total abstainers long before the sentiment became crystallized in law.
Whether prohibition was advisable or not, there was still the practical matter of what to do with existing stocks of alcohol, so, rather than ban consumption outright. Iceland was given a seven year period of grace before a ban on sales came into effect in 1915.
In 1922 pressure from Spain, who insisted that Iceland accept imports of wine in return for the continued importation of Icelandic fish, led to the first of several changes to the prohibition law that gradually saw the reintroduction of alcohol back into Iceland.

Prohibition in Iceland lasted until 1 March 1989.The ban had originally prohibited all alcohol, but from 1935 onward only applied to “strong” beer, with an alcohol content of 2.25% or more.


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