Addiction: Overturn of the proposed alcohol advertising ban in Lithuania
Addiction Journal have published an article that introduces the process how alcohol industry managed to cancel total alcohol advertising ban which was adopted by the Parliament in 2008 to take an effect from 1 January 2012.
In response to the dramatic increase in alcohol-related problems in Lithuania from the end of 2007 to the end of 2008, the Parliament adopted a number of evidence-based alcohol control measures. Alcohol excise taxes were increased by 20% for ethyl alcohol and fermented beverages in 2008 followed by another 15% (approximately) increase in 2009. The excise for beer was increased by 10% in 2008 and another 10% in 2009, and tax exemptions for small brewers were removed. The penalties for drink driving were increased, including vehicle confiscation, imprisonment for repeated offenders and the introduction of a lower Blood Alcohol Concentration level for young drivers (from 0.4 to 0.2‰). From 2009, the sale of alcoholic beverages was banned between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. with only bars and restaurants being exempted.
In addition to the aforementioned regulations, the alcohol advertising was banned on radio and television from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Paradoxically, the proposal for total alcohol advertising ban from 2012 was recommended by a special Parliament working group with active representatives from the alcohol industry in 2008. This proposal was presented as an alternative amendment to be adopted instead of the proposed immediate advertising time restrictions in television. However, the industry’s tactics backfired and both proposed amendments were adopted by the Parliament. From 2008 advertising in television was time restricted and from the 1st of January 2012 a total alcohol advertising ban was to be introduced with the small exception of allowing advertisements in retail premises. Therefore, the alcohol industry responded with extensive lobbying aiming to revoke this ban, and ultimately they succeeded at the end of December 2011.
The alcohol industry in Lithuania used similar tactics as the tobacco industry globally, such as creating strong and diverse opposing groups. The industry successfully exerted pressure to change alcohol control legislation, while non-governmental organizations had the important role of a watchdog, blunting industry’s efforts. Unequal power distribution made it difficult to withstand combined local and international lobbying to cancel the ban.
“Given the global nature of the alcohol industry, there is a need for international regulation to limit the influence of vested interests on national lawmaking,” authors conclude.