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Government approves bill restricting alcohol sales, advertising

Erki Savisaar hopes requiring purchasing alcohol with a bank card will help curb youth access to it.
Erki Savisaar hopes requiring purchasing alcohol with a bank card will help curb youth access to it. Source: (Siim Lõvi/ERR)

The Estonian government on Thursday confirmed a Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski's bill making changes to the Alcohol Act and Advertising Act before sending it on to the Riigikogu.

Speaking at the government press conference on Thursday, Ossinovski (IRL) noted that the bill making changes to alcohol and advertising laws on the books has been updated during the process to become significantly more specific.

"This bill is like a fine wine which has gotten better by the day," he quipped.

According to the IRL chairman, it was promised at the birth of the new ruling coalition that they would see through to completion a discussion that had begun in the previous government already on how to protect their people, particularly the health of their youth, by toughening up on access to alcohol and restrictions on the sale and advertisement thereof.

The bill's most recent changes affect requirements applicable to stores which will significantly decrease the open display of alcoholic beverages.

"In the future, alcoholic beverages will have to be placed separately from other products and cannot be prominently visible from outside," Ossinovski explained. "This requirement will first and foremost affect stores which place alcohol packaging in their windows or who otherwise display alcohol outside of their sales floor. Once the law goes into effect, these stores must relocate the displays of alcohol elsewhere on their sales floor or for example switch to opaque display cases."

The bill will also introduce extra restrictions for stores with a sales floor of over 450 square meters in size; alcohol in these stores will not be permitted to be visible from the rest of the sales floor.

Advertising to also be restricted

In the future, ads for alcohol must be sparse in information, focus on the product itself and not present the product in a positive atmosphere.

According to the health minister, alcohol advertising may not reference the positive effects of alcohol or the link betwen consuming alcohol and holidays and events.

"Following Finland's example, with the exception of on their own page, alcohol advertising on the part of alcohol distributors will be banned from social media entirely," Ossinovski noted.

Other restrictions include bans on outdoor advertising, television and radio ads for alcohol before 10 p.m. (compared to the previous 9 p.m.) and ads appearing on the front and back covers of supplements included with periodicals. In stores, alcohol tastings and happy hours in which alcohol is sold for cheaper than usual during specific hours will be banned and alcohol may not be sold for cheaper in multipacks than as individual bottles.

The bill will also toughen up requirements for sellers to verify the age of its buyers. Changes to the law will allow for control purchases to be made both to verify the appropriate restriction on the sale of alcohol to minors as well as discover the sale of bootleg alcohol.

The cap on fines for legal persons violating advertising laws will be increased to €50,000. Maximum fines for legal persons violating alcohol laws will also be increased.

Should the bill be passed in the Riigikogu, the law will go fully into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

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