LITHUANIA: Alcohol prohibition propaganda gaining international hue

Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania has prepared new amendments to the Law on Alcohol Control in October, suggesting total ban of outdoor advertising as well as advertising in all media beginning on 1st of July 2015. An exception would be applied only for the international art, cultural or sports events broadcast or rebroadcast directly or continuously and for programmes broadcast under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Lithuania, being broadcast from 6:00 to 23:00.

The Minister of Health Vytenis Pauliukaitis received support letters from The European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare), Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network (NordAN), Alcohol Policy Youth Network (APYN), Norwegian Policy Network on Alcohol and Drugs (Actis), Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP) that congratulated efforts of the Ministry to tighten alcohol advertising restrictions in Lithuania. At least 30 NGOs of Lithuania also expressed support for the Ministries initiative.

Reacting to compelling research evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising increases alcohol consumption among children and youth, many European countries are earnestly discussing stricter advertisement of alcoholic beverages. .

“This discussion is led by World Economic Forum, which supports total ban of alcohol advertisement and by World Health Organization, emphasizing the importance of advertisement restrictions”, – states Wim van Dalen head of Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy in his letter of support for the Minister of Health.

Renewed policy focus on youth health and welfare, rather than narrow business interests, presents an opportunity for Lithuania to become one the most progressive European countries in the area of alcohol control.

“Proposed amendments to the Law of Alcohol Control will allow country to come closer to implementing one of the most effective measures in alcohol policy – total prohibition of alcohol advertisement” – notes Daša Kokole a representative of European Alcohol Policy Youth Network.

“Norway has a long tradition of public health oriented alcohol policies and has a total ban on alcohol advertising. It is encouraging to note that a number of other countries across Europe are taking steps to protect young people from alcohol advertising, most famously France with the Loi Evin. More recently, Latvia has banned outdoor advertising, and the Finnish, Estonian and Irish governments are currently considering strengthening marketing regulations” – Stig Erik Surheim a representative of Norway’s alcohol and drug policy network briefly describes the situation in Europe.

Support letter produced by Lithuanian organizations emphasized that alcohol advertising restrictions (without implementing the full ban) cause an additional administrative burden for public authorities, entangles them in cumbersome and expensive legal processes and allows alcohol manufacturers manipulate the provisions of the law by constantly challenging all penalties for violations of the Law. Therefore total ban on advertising is more effective not only as a public health measure, but also as means to reduce costs related to implementation of alcohol control.

Lithuanian Parliament already has had the opportunity to prohibit the advertising of alcoholic beverages from 2012 1st of January, however amendments of the Law had been cancelled just before it coming into force. This decision was not supported by 50,2% of country’s population.

In December of 2011, 256 NGOs addressed country’s president D. Grybauskaite and Lithuanian Parliament asking to preserve and implement the total ban of alcohol advertising. The poll conducted in 2012 has shown that 62.3% of Lithuanian citizens are in favor of complete ban on alcohol advertising.

Lukas Galkus
Lithuanian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition

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