Authors: Ernesta Paukštė, Vaida Liutkutė, Mindaugas Štelemėkas, Nijolė Goštautaitė Midttun and Aurelijus Veryga Title: Overturn of the proposed alcohol advertising ban in Lithuania Journal: Addiction. Volume 109, Issue 5, pages 711–719, May 2014
Abstract Background: In response to the dramatic increase in alcohol-related problems in Lithuania, policy measures, including alcohol advertising and availability restrictions combined with taxation increase, were implemented in 2007–08. Simultaneously, a full alcohol advertising ban was adopted to take effect from 1 January 2012. Therefore, the alcohol industry responded with extensive lobbying aiming to revoke this ban, and ultimately they succeeded at the end of December 2011. Aim: To document and analyse actions of stakeholders and events during the alcohol advertising ban cancellation process in Lithuania. Methods: Policy analysis includes a development of event time-line, description of key stakeholders' actions and a review of policy context. Findings: 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. Conclusion: 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.
Econometric studies by Saffer and colleagues suggest that overall bans of alcohol marketing can be successful in decreasing the total alcohol consumption among adolescents. In accordance with this, in its European Action Plan (2011) the WHO recommends a total ban on alcohol advertising in Europe. The new factsheet describes the competence of the European Union to adopt a pan-European alcohol advertising ban and its legal possibilities.
The Fact Sheet concludes that a European ban is realistically achievable. Restricting the volume of alcohol advertising is one aspect of a comprehensive evidence-based alcohol policy to combat alcohol-related harm. Extensive alcohol advertising restrictions are already in place in some European countries (e.g. France, Norway and Sweden). A pan-European alcohol advertising ban is the next step in limiting the large volume of alcohol advertising in Europe, and is recommended by the World Health Organization. Existing European restrictions on advertising tobacco, gambling, and prescriptive drugs show that the EU is competent to protect its citizens by adopting extensive advertising bans. Such a ban, even when considered to be trade-distorting, can be justified on health grounds when the policy instrument proposed is seen as “proportionate” and “appropriate”. Alternatively, justification for an extensive advertising ban on economic grounds was given when an EU ban on tobacco advertising was introduced. By harmonizing volume restrictions of advertising on the internal market, distortions of tobacco advertising competition are aimed to be avoided. A similar approach can be taken by legislators who want to regulate alcohol adverting. Both the audio and the Powerpoint presentation of a short lecture on this topic by Wim van Dalen of STAP, the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy, are available on the website of EUROCARE.