Alcohol ads continue to sparkle in Lithuania
Vaida Liutkute from the Lithuanian Eurocare member Lithuanian National Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition reports on the developments and political landscape after last year's discussion of introducing a marketing ban on alcoholic beverages.
By Vaida Liutkute - firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2008 Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania (further – Parliament) accepted proposal to ban all alcohol advertisement since 2012 January 1st. With this it would have had became the first EU country to have a total ban on alcohol advertising and could possibly change the way EU countries regulate alcohol marketing. Alcohol industry understood that as well and reached their goals. However, this unique opportunity is still not forgotten and more and more details comes out.
Silence to the last and extra speed
As the year 2012 approached different stakeholders were getting more active to reverse this decision. For 2 years there was a silence and when 6 months were left till total ban of alcohol advertisement pressure for politicians started.
Alcohol industry, media and few MP´s met in a closed meeting in order to decide how to act more effectively. Then everything went with extra speed in order to avoid public discussions. Few weeks after this 14 MP-s registered amendment to the Alcohol control law that would remove upcoming ban of alcohol advertising.
Unfortunately, after long discussions Parliament members voted for this amendment, and President of Lithuania did not put a veto on this law. Ban on alcohol advertising was not implemented.
Civil society acted solidly
General population of Lithuania was supporting the idea of total ban. Public opinion survey showed that 49% of the population supports total ban, 43% is against and 8% has no opinion on this. But these numbers were not taken into account by MP’s.
During few months of discussion in Parliament civil society organizations were using every possible channel to tell people what is going on in the Parliament. MP’s were connected directly by emails, facebook and available media, Youtube videos showing politicians and presenting their decisions were created.
More than 300 local NGO‘s and around 10 international organizations or networks were involved and openly expressed their opinion on alcohol advertising issue.
Stink of private and public interests
National tobacco and alcohol control coalition (Coalition) appealed to the Commission for Ethics and Procedures of the Seimas (Commission) for investigation of 10 MP’s who have voted for cancellation of alcohol advertising ban even though they have declared possible interest. Commission decided, that there is no private and public interest, but later on have changed their meeting protocol and thus potentially committed criminal misconduct.
Coalition appealed to General Prosecutor's Office for investigation of this situation. Final decisions are still not made.
Water is muddled
In June 2012 Special Investigation Service of the Republic of Lithuania arrested for 15 days lobbyist A.Ramanovskis, who was well known for his lobbying activities (nearly exclusively) for tobacco and alcohol industry in Parliament. This arrest is the result of ongoing investigation on one of the Parliament members, who always dedicated himself for alcohol industry support. As media says now, he is accused for giving huge amount of money for the mentioned politician. A. Ramanovskis denies the charge.
At the same week about 30 media representatives, politicians and political scientist (etc.) published joint statement, asking to release the lobbyist and leave only house arrest to him.
In July A.Ramanovskis was bailed out. The matter is still under investigation.