; Karin Koppel; 10-01-2024

An advertisement for alcohol-free rum. Source: Priit Mürk/ER

While there are a number of restrictions on alcohol advertising in Estonia, the law does not prevent manufacturers from promoting alcohol-free versions of their products using designs that look almost exactly the same as those containing alcohol. The Estonian National Institute for Health Development (TAI) wants to see advertising restrictions extended to these products,

Alcohol advertising in Estonia is subject to a number of legal requirements and restrictions. These include the need to include a warning about the harmful effects of alcohol and a ban on advertising alcohol on television and radio between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. The advertising of alcohol outdoors in public space is also prohibited. At the same time, many alcohol producers now also sell non-alcoholic versions of their beverages, which are often sold in packaging that closely resembles that of the originals. Although the labels on these products may, at first glance, be difficult to distinguish from the alcoholic versions, they can be advertised without restriction. For example, viewers of a morning show on a private television channel have noticed an advertisement for non-alcoholic rum appearing during commercial breaks, while posters for the same product can also be seen on the streets of Tallinn.

The Estonian National Institute for Health Development (TAI) would like to see the current restrictions on alcohol advertising extended to also apply to products that look very similar to those containing alcohol. Anneli Sammel, head of the TAI’s alcohol and tobacco department, told ERR that advertisements for such products often serve the purpose of increasing consumers’ emotional attachment to alcohol consumption as well as to the producers of alcoholic beverages. “If the appearance of a non-alcoholic product is indistinguishable from an alcoholic product, the presentation and style of the advertisement can confuse consumers and lead to a misunderstanding of the nature of the product as well as inadvertently support a lifestyle associated with alcohol consumption,” Sammel said.

However, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) does not consider such advertisements as a way for alcohol producers to circumvent the restrictions. Diana Lints, an advertising expert at the TTJA’s department for enterprise, confirmed that this form of advertising is completely legal. “Alcohol advertising is information, which is disclosed about an alcoholic beverage in order to increase its sales. If it is a non-alcoholic beverage, the restrictions on alcohol advertising do not apply to its advertising,” she said. Lints added that the Estonian Advertising Act allows for the use of trademarks, which may also be used to sell alcoholic products, but do not themselves express, either in words or pictures, alcohol or its consumption, and which instead relate to goods and services other than alcohol, for the purpose of advertising those goods and services.

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