In 2017, landmark alcohol laws aiming to reduce alcohol harm were adopted into law in Lithuania. Since these new laws were enacted, Movendi International has closely followed the success of Lithuania’s alcohol policy modernization.
Recently, the World Health Organization hailed Lithuania for successfully implementing WHO recommended alcohol policy solutions to lower alcohol consumption and thus prevent and reduce alcohol harm.
Lithuania was a country with one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in the early 2000s. In the face of the heavy alcohol burden and a pervasive and harmful alcohol norm, new alcohol policy solutions were implemented by the government. The first action package was implemented in 2008–2009 and 2014 and the second package in 2016. These policies addressed the harm caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry.
The new laws cover all three Best Buy policy solutions recommended by WHO.
- 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 (from 18 years), and
- Ban of alcohol advertising, including billboards, TV, radio, the printed press and the internet.
The positive effects of the new alcohol laws are clearly visible:
- The implementation of high-impact alcohol policy solutions led to a 20% reduction of the alcohol-attributable years of life lost by 2016.
- The European School Survey on Alcohol and Other Psychoactive Substances (ESPAD) reported, in 2019 there were 21% of Lithuanian adolescents who were alcohol-free. This is a significant increase from 2015, when the alcohol-free percentage of adolescents was only 13%, and a major increase from 2011 when it was only between 2% to 5%.
The road to Lithuania’s world class alcohol policy system
The road to the modern, effective and proven Lithuanian alcohol laws was a long one with many obstacles posed by the alcohol industry. In a win for people, families and society at large, a 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 member organization NTAKK has been at the heart of the advocacy work for Lithuania’s groundbreaking, evidence-based alcohol prevention and control solutions.
New Lithuanaian government discusses weakening the effetive alcohol laws, citizens are against
Despite the effectiveness of the alcohol laws to better protect people and communities from alcohol harm, the new government has proposed weakening several measures. Some Members of Parliament (MPs) concretely proposed several amendments to water down the effective alcohol laws. These amendments included:
- Reducing the legal age for alcohol use to 18 years from 20 years for alcohol below 15% alcohol content.
- Extending the alcohol sales time on Sundays to 8PM from 3PM.
- Watering down the alcohol advertising ban.
- Allowing higher strength alcohol to be sold at fairs.
Lithuanian citizens have been against weakening the modernized alcohol laws in their country that have brought positive change.
- 74.6% of Lithuanians were against reducing the 20 year minimum age for alcohol purchase.
- 59.2% were against extending sales hours.
Lithuanian parliament listens to citizens and protects alcohol laws
Heart-driven members of NTAKK, the wider civil society, communities and several political leaders tirelessly advocated to safeguard the public interest and prevent weakening the alcohol laws. Movendi International joined the effort, among other efforts by writing a letter supporting the world class alcohol policy system of Lithuania to the Members of Parliament.
Only a few of the proposed amendments to the laws were accepted by the Economic Committee. The Committee rejected reducing the legal age outright.
The final draft of the amendment of the laws included the extending of the sales time on Sunday, weakening the advertising ban and a proposal to allow for higher strength alcohol at fairs.
During the plenary session on January 18, 2022, the Lithuanian parliament – Seimas – rejected the various amendments proposed to water down the alcohol laws. 51 MPs voted in favor while 42 voted against and 27 abstained from voting.
The biggest effect is not just one measure, but a set of measures,” said Aurelijus Veryga from the Lithuanian Peasants’ and Greens’ Union (LVŽS), former minister of health, who is in favor of protecting the integrity of the alcohol laws, as per Delfi.
The more of them are implemented, the greater the effect we have. It is said that internationally, especially in Europe, the Lithuanian Law on Alcohol Control is already mentioned as one of the best and the most effective legislation or models recommended to other countries by the World Health Organization.”
Aurelijus Veryga, member of Seimas, Lithuanian Peasants’ and Greens’ Union (LVŽS)
Nevertheless, the alcohol policy system in Lithuania is not yet out of danger of being weakened later on. However, the laws are safe for now since the same proposals can’t be registered and discussed for half a year, according to insiders.