Objectives: To understand the phenomenon of consumption of surrogate and illegal alcohols in Tallinn, capital of Estonia.
Methods: This study, conducted in Tallinn in May 2006, used rapid situation assessment. Interviews with key informants in relevant settings such as emergency departments of hospitals, accommodation for the homeless, police etc. (n = 22), with alcohol abusers (n = 33), natural observations of surrogate sale and consumption venues (n = 46), and tracking of trade data were carried out.
Results: Key informants confirmed that consumption of illegal and surrogate alcohols are widely used by alcohol abusers, a finding confirmed by the alcohol abusers. Availability of surrogates varied by area of the city, mainly sold from street kiosks. Illegally produced spirits were also easily available. Sales of surrogates appear to have increased in recent years.
Conclusion: A range of alcohol-containing substances that appear to be easily available at low cost, and that have high concentration of ethanol or contaminants known to be toxic, were identified in Tallinn. Alcohol policies in Estonia should address the consumption and availability of these substances.