Lithuania implemented new alcohol policy solutions by amending the existing alcohol law in 2017. The new laws cover all three Best Buy policy solutions recommended by the World Health Organization. They include:
- Tax increase for all alcohol products,
- Limiting availability to 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM Monday through Saturday and 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM on Sundays,
- Increase of the legal age for purchasing and possessing alcohol products to 20 years, and
- Ban of alcohol advertising, including billboards, TV, radio, the printed press and the internet.
Lithuanian journey to alcohol policy solutions
The road to the modern, effective and proven Lithuanian alcohol laws was a long one with many road blocks from the alcohol industry. However, the broad coalition of health professionals, wider civil society, young people, and major political parties and leaders managed to withstand Big Alcohol’s pressure and make these effective alcohol policy solutions a reality. Movendi International members NTAKK have been the leading advocates for Lithuania’s groundbreaking, evidence-based alcohol prevention and control solutions.
The first positive results of improving alcohol laws could be seen from data showing improved road safety in the country. One study found that the laws have permanently reduced the proportion of alcohol‐attributable crashes by 0.55%.
Alcohol laws in Lithuania have broad public support as well. This support has been increasing as the citizens experience the positive effects of the laws in their lives, families and communities.
A survey carried out by Spinter Tyrimai in 2019, on 1000 Lithuanians aged 18 to 74, found:
- 51% have a positive opinion about the existing alcohol policy regulations (an increase from 48% in 2018),
- 67% back the law raising the legal age limit (increase of 14 points from 2018),
- 62% support the total ban on alcohol advertising (increase of 5 points from 2018), and
- 35% reported their quality of life improved as there was less noise in their environment since the new laws.
Despite effectiveness and public support new government wants to weaken alcohol laws
Despite the effectiveness and the overwhelming public support for Lithuania’s modern, proven alcohol policy a threat is on the horizon for the alcohol laws. The new government is planning to remove some of the most effective policies, including the complete ban on advertising and the 20 year age limit for using alcohol products.
I believe we will review the package of bans to identify those that do not work [and] are against common sense and we will replace them,” said Viktorija Čmilyte-Nielsen, Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas), as per LRT.Viktorija Čmilyte-Nielsen, Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas)
A working group in the parliament with representatives from the Liberal Movement (LS), the Freedom Party (LP) and the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) are pushing for weakening the alcohol laws. Notably the Lithuanian Peasants ‘and Greens’ Union (LVŽS) who adopted the laws were not part of this working group.
The new government plans to weaken the alcohol laws by,
- Lifting the complete ban on alcohol advertising,
- Reducing the age limit for using alcohol products to a younger age from the current 20 years.
- Lifting the ban on the sale of low-content alcohol in pavilions and outdoor beach cafes,
- Changing the times of sale of alcohol on Sundays, and
- Allowing municipalities to decide public places where low-content alcohol products can be sold.
The government claims that the alcohol policy is not “fundamentally” changing. However, weakening the existing laws as above will increase children and youth exposure to alcohol advertising, drive higher use among young people due to lower age limits and increase availability of alcohol in society.
The plans of the new government run counter to scientific evidence and recommendations of the World Health Organization, such as the best buys.
There has not been enough time to evaluate the effectiveness of the alcohol laws in Lithuania since the improvements were adopted in 2017. This is why the Lithuanian president who signed the bill in 2017 to adopt these laws, Dalia Grybauskaitė, urged politicians to refrain from new controversial proposals until effects of the modernized alcohol law could be assessed and analyzed. Unfortunately it appears the message is ignored by the new government.
We have introduced the restrictions adopted during the last term on the basis of the recommendations of the World Health Organization,” said Aušrinė Norkienė, the leader of the LŽVS party, as per Alfa.lt.
When we adopted these measures, we talked about the fact that it would take time to see the change. According to experts, the period of validity of these regulations is too short to understand whether the measures are effective or not. “Aušrinė Norkienė, the leader of the LŽVS party