Government supports alcohol advertising restrictions in Latvia

Take note – story published 1 year and 2 months ago

In an attempt to reduce alcohol consumption in Latvia, new rules are in the making regarding alcohol distribution and advertising. The government, after long debates, supported the new amendments on Tuesday, March 21, but the Saeima will still have to view them before they come into force.

The new amendments to the Law on the Circulation of Alcoholic Beverages and the Law on Electronic Media indicate that all alcoholic drinks will have to include nutritional information on their labels; there would be a ban on free alcohol at gambling halls; advertising would be restricted, and small (0.2 l) PET packages of strong alcoholic drinks (over 22% alcohol) would be banned. 

As previously reported by LSM, Latvian households spend a larger proportion of their budgets on alcoholic beverages than anywhere else in the European Union, despite having some of the EU's lowest prices for booze.

Latvians spent €951 million on booze in 2021, equivalent to 2.8% of GDP. That represents 5.0% of total consumption expenditure, making it proportionally the country where households spend more on alcohol than anywhere else in the EU.

The Health Ministry has calculated that healthcare spent 56.6 million euros in 2021 for the direct treatment of alcohol-caused issues.

According to a survey from the Disease Prevention and Control Center in 2020, 69% of Latvian residents believe that alcohol advertising should be banned in general, while 66% of respondents consider it necessary to prohibit advertising of special offers for alcoholic beverages and sales of alcoholic beverages, the Ministry informed.

Changes to the Law include banning advertising of alcoholic beverages prices or discounts in the press and printed advertising costs, cinemas, Internet sites, online, mail and e-mail, and other places outside the retail sales of alcoholic beverages, with the exception of alcoholic beverages production sites or producer units.

It is planned to ban the supply of alcohol in trade with other goods or services at a more favorable price, and offer alcohol as a sample taste (except at retail) for free, as a gift or as compensation for the purchase of another product or receipt of a service.

The changes supported by the government also include a ban on sales which offer to purchase several units of alcoholic beverages at a lower price and other similar offers.

It is planned to ban price or discount advertising for beer and wine on television and radio.

The Ministry previously acknowledged that the changes would affect alcohol producers and traders, gambling halls and media that place advertising, but “the social and health costs and losses resulting from the use of alcoholic beverages and the consequences for both the user and his or her family and the whole society are higher, as evidenced by the studies and financial calculations carried out so far.”

At the government meeting, though, industry representatives and some ministers considered the amendments "incomplete" and "pointless". As reported, unsurprisingly, alcohol producers and advertisers are critical of the intention.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said that at the meeting, "hairs were being split" over amendments prepared over the course of two years, at a time when the government should be working on "important issues regarding Latvia's economic transformation". "I am a bit ashamed and a bit angry," said Kariņš.

In the end, the amendments were supported and will be viewed in the parliament.

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