We are pleased to present this newsflash focusing on the most recent issues and regulatory changes related to alcohol and energy drinks in the Baltics and Belarus. The following headline topics are covered:

BALTIC STATES TEND TO STRICTER REGULATION OF ALCOHOL SALE; CONTRARY TREND OBSERVED IN BELARUS

SALE AND ADVERTISING OF ENERGY DRINKS IN THE BALTICS AND BELARUS

BALTIC STATES TEND TO STRICTER REGULATION OF ALCOHOL SALE; A CONTRARY TREND OBSERVED IN BELARUS

Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs proposes stringent rules on alcohol advertising

The initial plan is to ensure that alcohol advertising on TV, the internet and in the press only presents product-related information and warnings. Moreover, the aim is to introduce a ban on all outdoor alcohol advertising. The planned changes have attracted considerable attention and feedback both from the alcohol industry and the general public.

In addition, a draft law aimed at banning alcohol sale at petrol stations is being prepared in Estonia.

Prohibition on sale of alcohol at petrol stations in force in Lithuania as of 1 January 2016

The prohibition applies to the sale of all sorts of alcoholic beverages regardless of the percentage of alcohol by volume or other criteria. The fear is that smaller businesses operating local non-chain petrol stations, which also function largely as convenience stores, will go out of business due to the new amendments. On the other hand, further restrictions on sales of alcoholic beverages are directly linked to lowering the consumption of alcohol in the country.

Sale of alcohol at petrol stations is still allowed in Latvia

Restricting the sale of alcohol at petrol stations was hotly discussed by stakeholders and other politicians during adoption of the Law on Handling Alcoholic Beverages and also later when amending the law. However, the proposal to restrict sales of alcohol at petrol stations was aborted right before the parliamentary vote. It remains to be seen whether Latvia will follow the examples of Lithuania and Estonia in taking more particular steps to prohibit sale of alcohol at petrol stations.

In Belarus, strict rules on alcohol sale and advertising are slightly relaxed

In Belarus, trade in alcohol remains a licensed type of business activity which may be carried out only by Belarus-registered businesses. Alcohol distribution through online stores is forbidden. Both limitations are likely to remain in effect in the foreseeable future.

A recently introduced regulation prohibits advertising of alcohol under the guise of advertising other products, such as drinking water or carbonated beverages (so-called hidden advertising). It is also illegal to advertise alcohol on radio and TV or to use people’s images in any alcohol advertising.

On the other hand, recently the prohibition on sale of alcohol at night was abolished in the capital city Minsk and in certain regions of Belarus.

SALE AND ADVERTISING OF ENERGY DRINKS IN THE BALTICS AND BELARUS

Sale of energy drinks to under 18s and advertising is not prohibited in Estonia

  • Although legally the sale of energy drinks to persons under the age of 18 (minors) is not prohibited, some retail chains (such as RIMI) have voluntarily established a prohibition. The Consumer Protection Board has analysed this situation and came to the conclusion that voluntary prohibition does not contravene legislation.
  • Certain restrictions on advertising energy drinks were established in 2014 - these included TV timing restrictions and an advertising ban at youth events.

Latvia: as of 1 June 2016 sale of energy drinks to minors will be illegal and advertising strictly regulated

On 21 January 2016 the Latvian Parliament adopted the Law on Handling Energy Drinks, which:

  • prohibits the sale of energy drinks to minors;
  • prohibits involving minors in handling energy drinks;
  • prohibits offering energy drinks to minors for free as a degustation, gift or compensation for purchasing another product or service;
  • prohibits sale of energy drinks in or around educational institutions;
  • requires retail stores to separate energy drinks from other products in order to easily identify them; in addition, a sign must be placed, indicating: “High caffeine content. Not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women”.

The Law on Handling Energy Drinks also concerns advertising:

  • energy drink advertisements must warn the audience about the negative effects of the excessive use of energy drinks as follows: at least 10% of the advertisement must be allocated for the warning; the warning must be provided at the bottom of the advertisement in black letters and on a white background, where the letters must be as large as to fill the allocated space for the warning as much as possible;
  • advertisements for energy drinks (including audio/audio-visual advertisements) cannot be addressed to or make use of minors;
  • advertisements for energy drinks are prohibited: in, before or after radio and television programmes intended for minors, as well as in advertising in the press targeted at minors;
  • advertisements cannot give the impression that energy drinks are used: with alcohol, or when participating in sports competitions, or when carrying out individual or organised activities for maintaining or increasing physical health, or for restoring hydration during such activities;
  • energy drink advertisements cannot be placed in/at education institutions.

If nothing changes, the Law on Handling Energy Drinks will come into force on 1 June 2016.

Lithuania: restrictions on energy drink sales already adopted

Sale of energy drinks to minors is strictly prohibited in Lithuania and administrative fines are imposed on violators. Even more, fines can also be imposed on adults who buy such products for minors.

In an attempt to minimize the popularity of energy drinks and potential harm the Lithuanian legislator has also imposed restrictions on advertising them. The Law on Advertising therefore prohibits display of energy drinks as products of sponsors or advertising them by other means in:

  • educational institutions attended by minors;
  • at premises where concerts, sports, charity and other events intended for minors are held, as well as in advertising materials for such events;
  • at premises where theatre plays, movies and films intended for minors are shown, as well as in advertising materials for this type of entertainment;
  • in public media intended for minors and related advertising materials;
  • in promotions and competitions intended for minors and related advertising materials.

Furthermore, a warning sign that “energy drinks should not be consumed with alcohol” must always be present in permitted advertising of energy drinks.

In Belarus, sale and advertising of energy drinks is likely to fall under certain restrictions

The Belarusian Government is considering a ban on the sale of energy drinks to minors, to sale of energy drinks in stores with a total area of less than 50m2, as well as certain restrictions on advertising energy drinks. It is not clear how soon and what exactly the changes to the law will be.

Currently, Belarusian legislation establishes certain minimum requirements related to the sale of energy drinks. For example, manufacturers have to place recommendations on containers against consumption of energy drinks by minors, during pregnancy, and so on.