Latvian Ministry of Health proposes to ban alcohol advertising

On Friday, July 5, the Ministry of Health (VM) presented the draft of an action plan for reducing alcohol consumption and restricting alcohol addiction in 2020–2022 for public discussion.

The plan envisages a ban on the advertising of alcohol on television, radio or the internet, as well as the sale of alcoholic beverages in gas stations, reported LSM's Latvian service on July 5.

In short:

VM proposes:

  • Prohibit all advertisements of alcoholic beverages on television, radio, and the internet.

  • Prohibit wine tasting in all retail stores, except the site of production.

  • Prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages at gas stations.

  • The labelling of alcoholic beverages must include information that would discourage people from consuming alcohol. 

  • Reduce the allowable blood alcohol content for drivers to 0.2 per mille. 

  • Assess the possibility of setting up a national health promotion fund, channeling into it a part of the excise tax revenue.

  • Expand outpatient and inpatient treatment for people with an alcohol addiction in regions.

The VM noted in its message to the media that it is planning to impose new restrictions on the availability and advertising of alcohol in order to reduce alcohol consumption and harm to public health. It also plans to improve the alcohol addiction treatment and rehabilitation services.

"Alcohol consumption is increasing every year in Latvia, therefore it is essential to limit the availability of alcoholic beverages and to edify society about the negative effects of alcohol on health,” the VM said in its message.

One of the objectives of the plan is to restrict the advertising of alcoholic beverages, which, according to the World Health Organization, is one of the most effective ways to reduce alcohol consumption in society, especially among young people. The Health Ministry is proposing to prohibit all advertising of alcoholic beverages on television, radio, and the internet. It also plans to put advertising restrictions on various alcoholic campaigns and discounts.

Other countries have been taking similar measures. For instance, alcohol advertising has been banned in Lithuania since last year and Estonia has imposed stricter restrictions on alcohol advertising outdoors and on social media. In Sweden, alcohol advertising on radio and television is also banned, whereas in Norway it is also banned on the internet, the VM noted.

The Health Ministry also urges the ban on alcohol beverage campaigns and discounts for the simultaneous purchase of multiple alcoholic beverages, as well as a ban on the tasting and sampling of alcohol in all retail stores except the site of production.

The ministry also urges to consider the possibility of setting up a national health promotion fund by earmarking the funding of 0.5% of excise tax revenue on alcohol, tobacco and taxes on gambling and lotteries. 

The plan also envisages limiting the availability of alcoholic beverages and tightening controls, for example, by prohibiting the sale of alcohol at gas stations. On the other hand, it is planned to monitor that alcohol is not sold to minors and increase the control of illegal alcohol transportation. 

The Health Ministry also notes the importance of expanding outpatient and inpatient treatment for people with alcohol dependance in regions. At present, the availability of narcological assistance is not evenly distributed in the country, as most narcologists tend to focus on Rīga and its vicinity. Meanwhile, the prevalence of cases of alcohol psychosis and behavioural disorders associated with alcohol use are on the increase. The ministry plans to work to broaden the accessibility of rehabilitation.

The Health Ministry, in the meantime, emphasizes the importance of edifying the public, especially young people, pregnant women and parents, as to the harmful effects of alcohol on health. 

The ministry will continue organizing information campaigns. It also proposes that labels on beverages should include information that would discourage people from consuming alcohol. 

Part of the plan is also to reduce the allowable blood alcohol content for drivers to 0.2 per mille, from the current 0.5 per mille.

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