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LATVIA: Social Affairs Committee supports a bill to reduce alcohol consumption in society

Andris Bērziņš, Commission for Social and Labour Affairs
Andris Bērziņš

18.06.2024 - To reduce alcohol consumption in society, the Social and Labor Affairs Committee on Wednesday, June 5, supported amendments to the Law on Alcoholic Beverages Circulation in its third reading.

The amount of alcohol consumed in Latvia is the highest among both European Union and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, according to the authors of the bill. “The proposed amendments are a way to reduce excessive alcohol consumption in society, promote more thoughtful use, and reduce impulsive purchases while providing broader information about the negative health impacts of alcoholic beverages,” noted committee chairman Andris Bērziņš.

The amendments aim to restrict the hours during which alcoholic beverages can be purchased in retail, including websites and mobile apps. It is planned that from Monday to Saturday, alcohol can be purchased from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and on Sundays from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. These changes are expected to come into effect on June 1 of next year.

Additionally, to curb impulsive alcohol purchases, alcoholic beverages bought online or via mobile apps can only be delivered to the buyer at least six hours after ordering. The amendments also propose banning sales promotions that offer multiple units of alcoholic beverages at a lower price and discounts under consumer loyalty programs to reduce impulsive purchases.

The law changes also intend to limit the advertising, marketing, and availability of alcoholic beverages. It is planned to ensure that consumers receive additional information on the energy value, nutritional value, and composition of alcoholic beverages.

It is proposed that advertising will be prohibited in press publications, printed advertisements, and publications, in cinemas, on websites, and online using mail (including email) services, as well as in retail locations where alcoholic beverages are sold.

Moreover, it is planned to ban offering alcoholic beverages for free, as a gift, or as compensation in sales (including distance contracts) and service provision places, regardless of whether they have a special permit (including beauty salons, hairdressers, wedding salons, electronics stores, auto accessory shops, etc.).

The bill also stipulates that the retail sale of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption will be prohibited in gambling establishments at slot machines, card, dice, and roulette tables, or other gaming equipment. The aim of this provision is to separate two addiction-inducing activities, according to the bill’s annotation.

During the meeting, deputies emphasized the need to invite the government to assess the impact of these amendments on public health one year after their implementation.

Before the amendments are reviewed in the final reading in the Saeima, the bill must still be coordinated with the European Commission, informed A. Bērziņš.

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