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Finland backpedals on “prohibition” of alcohol adverts

Information on the availability and price of mild alcohol drinks can be displayed in shop windows and kiosks and even outside in future, as lawmakers recently decided to tone down an amendment to make current alcohol advertising guidelines in Finland even stricter.

Image: Yle

Finland was in an uproar last year amid news of a new amendment to the Alcohol Act that would have made current advertising practices even more stringent. Commentators on social media even went so far as to call the stricter law Finland’s “new prohibition”.

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health representative Ismo Tuominen admits that the ministry’s message on the matter failed.

“In part, this was a question of the people wilfully misunderstanding the issue. We may not have been entirely successful in our communications, however, because this was never any kind of ban,” says Tuominen.

“The intention was never to make a strict law that was out of touch with the real world. We worked from the premise that Finland sells alcohol products legally. Enforcement agencies are not about to go peeking in windows to see if alcohol products are being advertised accordingly,” he says.

Parliament makes some last-minute tweaks

The amendment was set to come into force in January 2015 and would have prohibited the advertising of alcohol products in public places. Among other things, the move was supposed to protect children walking down the street from being exposed to alcohol ads. The ban would have even extended to advertisements on the sides of distribution vehicles, for example.

Last minute changes were made to the law, however, before the Parliament approved of the changes.

“Retailers like restaurants, shops and kiosks can now advertise that a certain beer or wine is on sale and what the price is. The use of street-level adverts like the stands found in front of kiosks and restaurants are still acceptable, but cannot be located too far from the store,” says Tuominen.  

The new more mellow law now says that beer company logos can be featured in shop windows and stands.

“Not every kind of advertising is permitted, however, as larger posters are still prohibited, for example. The relevant authorities will decide where the line is drawn,” says the Social Affairs Ministry’s Ismo Tuominen.

Sale products can still be advertised in the newspaper, but television ads are only allowed after 10 pm. The advertisement of alcohol products is also freely allowed on the internet.

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