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Social affairs ministry unhappy with alcohol advertising law amendment plans

Riina Sikkut (SDE).
Riina Sikkut (SDE). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The social affairs ministry has criticized plans to amend the law on advertising in Estonia, saying that this has unilaterally included an option to ease restrictions on alcohol advertising.

The equivalent of around 11 liters of pure alcohol per capita were estimated to be consumed annually in Estonia as of 2022, about mid-way in the EU ranking.

Another ministry, that of economic affairs and communications, is planning updates to the advertising law, which is now almost 15 years old.

Health Minister Riina Sikkut (SDE) told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Friday that: "If in the coalition agreement there was an expectation to regulate instant loans and gambling, for example sports betting, in the development intention this attention has gone elsewhere and rather there is a lot of talk about alcohol advertising and the changes there."

"The Ministry of Social Affairs does not see the need to change the advertising law or provide any easing in the case of alcohol advertising, considering the social damage that we could see with increasing consumption," Minister Sikkut went on.

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications Deputy Secretary General Sandra Särav told AK that no decision has as yet been made on relaxing any of the current restrictions, though a desire to make the law clearer does exist.

This includes how alcohol advertising is seen by the law.

For example, the law requires alcohol advertising to be "neutral", but this is not always possible.

Questions at stake include whether alcohol advertising should be shown on TV before 10 p.m. (the time at which stores are legally required to stop selling alcoholic drinks), whether alcohol-free versions of alcoholic beverages should be treated in the same way, the position of social media advertising, and more.

Anniken Haldna, head of the association of marketers (Turundajate liit), told AK that restrictions should be scientifically proven to be effective, before being put in place, adding that "unfortunately, there are not any particularly good studies from here in Estonia which could be relied uipon to get a clear picture of the link between advertising and consumption, and particularly when it comes to those public health issues which are in focus."

Anneli Sammel, head of the alcohol section of the Health Development Institute (TAI) was in favor of a ban on alcohol advertising, for simplification's sake.

"When problems arise with monitoring, it's preferable to go down the route of a blanket ban. In that case, supervision is much easier," Sammel said.

Meanwhile Minister Sikkut said that restrictions on alcohol advertising cannot be eased without changing other restrictions relating to consumption of alcohol, for instance in licensed premises.

Sandra Särav told AK that the current regime is no longer justified, as they relate to TV, whereas young people in particular tend to be online, where they may encounter alcohol advertisements at any time.

Those so-called influencers whose fan-bases primarily consist of a younger demographic and who therefore are not supposed to carry any ads or promotions relating to alcohol have, in some cases, found workarounds, Särav added.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamer,' reporter Hanneli Rudi.

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