Estonia receives strong international support

NordAN has been active in gathering international support to Estonia´s plan to introduce a series of different new regulations that will restrict alcohol availability and advertising as well as raise alcohol taxes.

Alcohol policy bill that was introduced by health minister Jevgeni Ossinovski already in October 2015 did´nt move forward as hoped and it seemed that the main opposition came from the Reform party which was the main coalition power and also prime minister Taavi Rõivas´s party. After a change in government when Social Democrats (lead by minister Ossinovski) and Pro Patria party decided to form a new government together with Estonian Centre Party, alcohol policy bill was among the first new initiatives that is now set to be implemented in the coming weeks.

Alcohol industry and other economic operators have been extremely vocal in expressing their opposition to these plans, claiming that these regulations would result in job losses and decreasing economic environment. Carslberg and Olvi, the big international owners of Estonian breweries have threatened to withdraw their investments and rethink their position in Estonia.

As a reaction, NordAN sent a support letter confirming that “limiting both alcohol marketing and availability are important measures when a country attempts to decrease the level of youth drinking and alcohol related harm at large. These measures have a strong evidence base and are recommended as the “best-buys” by the World Health Organisation. Together with tax policies it creates a combination of interventions that has the strongest potential.”

NordAN has asked for similar interventions also from other international organisations and letters have been sent from European Alcohol Policy Alliance Eurocare, Lithuanian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition (NTAKK), ANPAA from France, EUCAM and European Heart Network.

Eurocare stressed that a kind of attack that Estonian government is facing is as expected from the economic operators. “As alcohol policy often contradicts with the interests of different industries and businesses it is important to state that for any country or government, the well-being and health of people should come before profit of private companies. Actions on alcohol as a risk factor will address chronic disease, ill health and premature death as well as reduce inequalities and create future savings for health systems.”

NTAKK from Lithuania, from a country with similar background and also alcohol policy plans, confirmed these plans as something that European members states should follow. “We wish you strength and determination to withstand lobyist pressure from the alcohol and related industries. Lithuanian experience has shown that the best result is achieved when governmental agencies cooperate with NGO sector in defending public health. It is very important
that our countries, where alcohol related harm is one of the highest among European Member States take the lead in taking alcohol control seriously.”

Another support letter was sent by ANPAA (Association nationale de prevention en alcoologie et addictologie), a French non-governmental organization working on addictions’ prevention. ANPAA has been advocating for the Loi Evin law, which has been an example for the proposed Estonian changes as well. “In France, a similar legislation is in place since 1991 (“Loi Evin”). This legislation largely contributed to limit abuses regarding promotion of alcoholic beverages, and therefore led to a decrease of alcohol consumption and reduction of related harm in France.”

EUCAM, the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing, sent a support letter undersigned by world’s 6 leading scientists in the field of alcohol marketing and drinking behaviour. “You will be able to pride yourself for proposing strong regulations where other countries are still hesitant. There is a large evidence base suggesting that exposure to alcohol marketing leads to drinking at an earlier age, as well as increasing the amount consumed (4,5 ). Based on the large body of scientific work concerning alcohol marketing and drinking behaviour, the signatories of this letter expect a significant protective effect on the health of young people and future generations coming from the amendments to the Alcohol Act and Advertising Act.”

European Heart Network expressed its not only to alcohol policy plans in Estonia but also to the introduction of sugar tax. “The policy plans that Estonia is proposing are based on high-level international policy declarations and agreements. Reducing sugar consumption and limiting child exposure to marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks are some of the actions mentioned in the WHO Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (2016-2025).”