Booze to vanish from before buyer eye

Alkoholilett Tallinnas Norde Centrumi Rimis.

PHOTO: Liis Treimann / Postimees

In near future, purchasing alcohol will grow much more complex – stores will have to erect nontransparent walls around alcohol departments, gas stations must stop selling tipple altogether, and local government get powers to ban sales of intoxicating drinks in eateries at certain hours. 

«The state plans to cut consumption of alcohol by half by 2030, but that will take even harsher measures that proposed by the new bill,» health and labour minister Jevgeni Ossinovski said yesterday at the presentation of the amendment in pipeline.

For starters, the state has decided to decisively curb sales of alcohol. Beginning in January 1st 2017, alcohol must be on separate shelves from other stuff in stores. «Regarding public health it is not prudent to have wine offered to you next to cheese,» said the minister commenting the amendment, adding that in stores nothing is placed randomly but the location of products is carefully calculated. As for the lengthy time slop provided for rearrangement of the shelves, the minister substantiated this by the bill reaching Riigikogu in new year only and it will take time to proceed it; thus, the shops will have maximum of half year to act. He went on to say that the new restrictions have actually been known to the merchants long ago, having been reflected in the alcohol policy green book agreed last year.

Minors in focus

Starting 2018, major food stores need to create separate departments with non-transparent walls; in smaller shops, alcohol may only be sold from behind the counter. «In the larger stores, an individual will have to specifically want to head for the bottle; as in smaller shops this would be complicated due to narrowness, they will have to do the extra asking,» said Mr Ossinovski. He claimed this would have a major effect on minors for whom it is psychologically harder to ask the cashier for the bottle.

To further complicate getting the booze for minors, the requirement to ask for a document will be made tougher. «At present, a cashier may ask for the identification document and as this is not working in practice, we will make asking for the document mandatory except for the cases where it is obvious the individual is of full age or when the cashier knows the individual personally,» said Mr Ossinovski. He assured us that Estonia will not adopt the US custom to ask anybody for document when purchasing booze no matter the age. 

Starting 2017, alcohol sales will be banned in stores at gas stations. Mr Ossinovski says alcohol and driving ought not to go together. As another reason for the ban, he underlined that it is in the very filling stations that the rules to ask young people for documents are violated the most.

«We lack good statistics, but in almost all smaller places alcohol will also be obtained from cashiers who people know outside the prescribed hours, as the cashier will enter it in cash register in the morning,» said Mr Ossinovski. He admitted that the sales spots being numerous, the state will be unable to actually check how the rules will be kept.

Local governments will be restored the right to impose additional restrictions to alcohol sales at eateries. «This is a trouble spot for lots and lots of local governments, as in certain city districts bars and taverns are open into the early hours and after midnight the people start to fight and make trouble and they can’t react soon enough,» said the minister.

Also, it will be prohibited for stores to hold degustation events for alcohol, and eateries will have to go without the so-called happy hours where at certain times alcohol is cheaper of offered two for the price of one.

Strict ads rules

While thus far alcohol advertisements in Estonia have been regulated via bans, which in practice have spawned myriads of disputes, now they will go by the example of France it is very explicitly specified what an ad may contain. «Whatever is not in the list cannot feature in ads,» explained the minister. Also to be banned is the thus far allowed open air ads of low-alcoholic beverages, and in TV the allowed time for alcohol ads will be pushed further into the night by one hour to 10 pm.

Mr Ossinovski admitted that the preferences of the youth change and Internet is preferred above TV – and that’s where alcohol ads have moved to. For the time being, it is not intended to begin limiting ads in Internet. «In Finland, a law regulating social media has entered into force. Let’s see how they will do, and if they are successful, we will adopt that,» promised the minister.

Mr Ossinovski said he did not believe that the tough rules would lead to closure of smaller TV stations. «These are capable and professional people who are able to manage in varying regulative environments,» said the minister, stressing that the state goes by the priority of public health.

Alcohol sales bans:

2004 – alcohol sales was banned at newspaper stands

2008 – national alcohol sales ban from 10 pm to 10 am; ban on alcohol ads in TV between 7 am to 9 pm

2014 –  green book published on alcohol policy

2017 – alcohol sales banned at filling stations; in sales areas, alcohol must be placed separately

2018 – large stores must have separate alcohol departments with non-transparent walls; in small shops alcohol may only be sold over the counter  

Alcohol ads restrictions:

In the future, alcohol ads may only contain regarding the drink its

1) name

2) type

3) name of producer

4) trademark

5) country of origin

6) geographical region

7) ethanol content percentage

8) image of sales package

9) description of characteristics (colour, aroma, taste)

The information contained in alcohol ad must be presented on single colour background, and without sound and visual design elements.  

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