Finland Plans Alcohol-Ad Ban in Public Places to Shield Children

Finland plans to tighten alcohol-advertising laws after pushing cigarette sales under the counter to protect children.

The government will ban alcohol ads in public places, such as bus stops and billboards while continuing to allow sponsorship of sports events and concerts, according to an e-mailed statement from the Helsinki-based executive today. Beverage commercials based on consumer participation, such as games, competitions and lotteries, will become illegal.

The decision marks the latest step in Finland’s efforts to protect children from exposure to addictive substances. Shops have been banned from displaying tobacco products and brands since 2012, forcing retailers to keep such goods under the counter or behind cupboards with opaque doors. Cigarette vending machines will become illegal in 2015.

“Banning outdoor advertisements and placing new restrictions on digital ones was quite a surprise,” Elina Ussa, managing director at the Federation of Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry, said by phone today. “This will have a significant impact on the brewing industry’s possibility to launch new products.”

Alcohol advertising is completely banned in Norway, while France restricts it to factual references such as strength, origin, ingredients and methods of production. Finland decided not to forbid advertisements intended to boost a brand or relying on images to create a positive link between the product and the impact from its consumption, even after the ban was proposed in a draft law last year.

The proposal is an effort to reach a compromise between views brought forward by the brewing industry and organizations dedicated to ending alcohol abuse, the government said. It will be sent to parliament this spring.

“We’ve made significant investments in self-regulation, which could be a better way to solve these things,” Ussa said. “It will be quite an effort to police digital media.”

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