Lithuania enforces national alcohol advertising ban

Lithuania has introduced a new legislation banning alcohol advertising from all foreign and domestic TV, radio, printed media and the Internet, prompting government press distributors to start plastering over alcohol ads in print magazines.

The blanket ban on alcohol ads across different media took effect on 1 January 2018 in the Baltic EU state for both domestic and foreign media.

“We have people who now review every page, and we cover the ads before we distribute the magazines,” Vigintas Bartasevicius, managing director at Press Express – the largest distributor of foreign papers – told various media sources. Vogue, Newsweek, National Geographic and Germany’s Stern magazine are among magazines whose alcohol ads have been covered with red stickers.

Failure to remove or cover up the adverts could lead to fines of €30,000 per page for Press Express but it has also left publishing houses and their advertisers unhappy that paid-for content has been ruined and large retail chains have refused to accept the censored magazines saying they are “spoiled goods”.

The measure is something of an unexpected consequence of laws passed last year by president Dalia Grybauskaite who was re-elected in 2014.

Referring to the consequences of the new laws, Grybauskaite told reporters this week that it, “was reminiscent of Medieval times [quite how is unclear] and it brings international shame on Lithuania,” before saying in the same breath, “we must have laws without such flaws.”

In another effort to curb alcohol consumption in the country, her government raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 20 years last year and enforced alcohol sale hours as well.

In 2016 heavier excise taxes and a ban on discounts were also introduced.

The country’s per capita alcohol consumption stood at 13.2 litres in 2016, making it the third heaviest drinking country in the world.

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