Restrictions on alcohol point of sale displays come into force Saturday

Alcoholic drinks for sale in Estonia. Such points of sale will need to be obscured, starting Saturday.
Alcoholic drinks for sale in Estonia. Such points of sale will need to be obscured, starting Saturday. Source: ERR

Starting Saturday, June 1, restrictions are in place on displaying alcoholic drinks in Estonian stores, which will both separate them from other products, and restrict their visibility from outside the point of sale.

The new arrangement is aimed at keeping customers from being "inevitably exposed" to alcoholic beverages, ERR's online news in Estonian reports, and includes restricting product visibility from the rest of the sales area when once inside a store, unless that store's size makes this impractical.

The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) is to supervise compliance with the new regulations, and is to advise retailers how they go about setting up their stores.

"If a trader does not make the necessary adjustments, or does so inadequately, in the first instance, we will ask them for an explanation and reasons," Kaur Kajak, TTJA director, told ERR.

"Our desire is not to punish, but to reach a situation where a retailer is in compliance with the law and makes the changes to fulfill compliance themselves," Kajak said.

"At the same time, if a retailer demonstrates ill-will and does not cooperate with the TTJA, we will have to act decisively and possibly penalize them," he added.

In recent years, in addition to successive hikes in alcohol excise duties, other measures aimed at combating alcohol abuse have been introduced in Estonia, including giving the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) the right to inspect the availability of alcohol to minors. The legal age for purchasing alcohol in Estonia is 18, with stores requesting age verification via an ID card as needed.

In June 2018, alcohol advertising restrictions also came into force, completely banning its practise outside and on social media, and further restricting alcohol advertising on television, radio and magazines.

One reported loophole in this law has seen the two major alcohol producers in the country, Saku and A. Le Coq, advertise non-alcoholic beers online and on advertising hoardings. The association may indirectly promote alcoholic beers as well, it is argued.

The current Centre-EKRE-Isamaa coalition tabled a bill earlier in the week which would reverse the alcohol duty hikes, however, cutting them by 25 percent. If the bill, currently at its first reading, passes at the Riigikogu, the cuts would come into effect on July 1. Proponents of the bill say it would halt and reverse cross-border alcohol trade in Latvia, where customers from Estonia and Finland have been traveling to make purchases.

Cigarettes are still visible in Estonian points of sale, unlike in Finland, where they have been under cover for some years.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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