Social ministry launches attack on alcohol ads and happy hours, industry vows to fight back
The Ministry of Social Affairs introduced a new bill on Monday that would set tougher regulations on alcohol ads and turn flashy commercials into concise notices. The bill will also limit the sale of alcohol in gas stations and ban happy hour offers.
According to social ministry's plan, alcohol ads can no longer include audio and visual design elements. All outdoor advertising will be banned.
In other words, alcohol commercials will be limited to a monochrome still picture and a short audio cue with product information and a health warning.
Adverts will can only entail the name, type and producer of the alcoholic beverage they promote, country of origin, alcohol content by volume, image of the packaging, and descriptions like color, scent and taste of the product.
This means that commercials will become rather ascetic. There will be no more smiley faces on papers and billboards, internet and TV screens.
In addition, no alcohol commercials will be aired before 22:00, instead of the current 21:00 watershed.
"In the 'Green Book' of alcohol policy, which was published last year, we analyzed two options: whether to put a total ban on alcohol ads or to regulate it in a way currently done in France – by removing life-style references," said Maris Jesse, the director of the National Institute of Health Development. She added that for the time being, the society seems to prefer the second option.
Alcohol producers, the Estonian Food Industry Association and commercial TV channels have promised to fight against the proposed changes.
The Association of Estonian Broadcasters told Eesti Päevaleht that the bill could pronounce the end of two or three local TV channels, which depend on money earned from alcohol ads.
No more happy hours
According to the bill, alcoholic drinks must be separated from other products in shops. Starting from January 1, 2018 they can only be sold in an area detached from the rest of the floor space by non-transparent walls. Small shops can get around this rule by selling alcohol over the counter only.
From 2017 onward, gas stations will no longer be allowed to sell alcohol.
Moreover, catering establishments will not be allowed to offer happy hour deals of two for one or any similar discounts.
The Estonian Government aims to reduce alcohol consumption to below eight litres of pure alcohol per person per year. Today, this figure is nearly 10 litres of pure alcohol per person.