Dual Markets pp 237-248 | Cite as

Iceland’s Peculiar Beer Ban, 1915–1989

  • Helgi GunnlaugssonEmail author


Beer was prohibited in Iceland from 1915 until the ban was finally lifted by parliament (Alþingi) in 1989; but wine has been legally imported since 1922, as have all other alcoholic beverages since 1935. Using records of parliamentary debates, newspaper accounts, interviews, and census data, this chapter will examine the main arguments used for and against the law in Alþingi. Various side effects and unintended consequences of prohibition will also be revealed in this chapter. Opposition to beer in Iceland was found to be strongest among Alþingi members from rural areas and traditional socialist parties. The most influential argument against beer alone was that adolescents are particularly susceptible to the temptation to drink beer. Similarly, prohibition of marijuana has had the same objective: To save youth from what is perceived as a major threat to their well-being. Opponents of the beer ban in Alþingi pointed out the peculiar nature of the law allowing hard liquor but prohibiting the weakest substance of all, beer. More liberal alcohol policies have indisputably increased the total amount of alcohol consumed in Iceland in recent years.


Beer Ban Iceland Alcohol Consumption Cannabis Control Gateway Theory Marijuana 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of IcelandFaculty of Social and Human SciencesReykjavíkIceland

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