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Bill seeking to restrict alcohol sales reaches Estonian government

Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski (IRL) has submitted to the Estonian government a bill which, in addition to previously planned restrictions on alcohol advertising, would ban alcohol advertisements on social media, force supermarkets to separate alcohol from other goods and substantially restrict a number of other things related to alcohol.

Although an earlier version of the bill of amendments to the Alcohol Act and the Advertising Act did nto include online advertisements, representatives of all three government coalition parties decided that the bill must also take into account what is happening online and the popularity of social media, the Ministry of Social Affairs said.

"It has been proven that alcohol advertisements have an extensive effect on people's consumption habits, especially those of young people," Ossinovski said. "Taking into account the growing influence of social media, we have decided to ban all alcohol advertisements on social media."

At the same time, sales restrictions of small stores are to be reduced. "In the future, alcoholic drinks must be separated from other goods in stores and may not be seen from outside of the store," the minister explained. "Small stores, however, will not have to hide alcoholic drinks behind a wall; this restriction will only apply to big stores whose sales floor exceeds 600 square meters in size." He also noted that the coalition had also decided not to ban the sale of alcohol at gas stations.

The maximum fine for a legal person breaking the advertising law will be €50,000.

The bill initiated by Ossinovski was in principle approved by the government at the end of 2016. A workgroup was formed thereafter which included Ossinovski, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson and Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu.

Changes to alcohol and advertising laws would among other things ban audio and visual design elements in alcohol advertisements, allowing only a monochrome static image to be shown. The bill would ban outdoor advertisement of alcohol and require larger stores to designate special areas separated from the rest of the premises with non-transparent walls for the sale of alcohol by 2018.

The plan has drawn heavy criticism from both alcohol producers as well as commercial TV channels. The latter have claimed that the measure would complicate the production of original programming and substantially weaken their financial situation.

Should the Riigikogu adopt the bill into law, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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