Turkey to Tighten Alcohol Rules, Impose Ad Ban Under Draft Law

A Turkish parliament committee approved a proposal to restrict the sale and marketing of alcoholic drinks, as the country’s ruling Islamist-rooted party said it’s not seeking a total ban.

All advertisement and promotion of alcohol will be barred under the bill, the state-run Anatolia news agency said, citing a draft approved by the Planning and Budget Commission in the early hours of today that must now be debated in parliament. It was submitted after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month that ayran, a salted yogurt drink, was Turkey’s national beverage, rather than anything alcoholic.

Sureyya Sadi Bilgic, a lawmaker from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, told the commission that his party was “not seeking to ban the consumption of alcohol but aiming to protect children and youth from bad habits,” according to Anatolia. Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek told the commission that it’s not possible to calculate the financial effect of the draft.

“Obvious losers” from the legislation would include Anadolu Efes Biracilik & Malt Sanayii AS and Turk Tuborg Bira & Malt Sanayii AS, two listed beermakers, Julian Rimmer, a trader at CF Global Trading in London, said in an e-mailed note today.

The law will hurt business and exceeds its stated mandate of protecting minors, Turyid, a group representing Turkish restaurants and entertainment companies, said in a statement on May 16. It said Turkey has Europe’s lowest alcohol consumption at 1.5 liters per capita.

Diageo Concern

Diageo Plc, the world’s largest distiller of alcoholic beverages, has also expressed concern over proposed curbs. Diageo paid $2.1 billion in 2011 for Mey Icki, a producer of the traditional Turkish spirit raki.

Lawmakers from the opposition Republican People’s Party distributed ayran during yesterday’s commission meeting in protest. “Let’s ban whiskey, raki and all others, this is what you want,” Anatolia cited Mevlut Aslanoglu, a lawmaker from the party, as saying during the debate.

The bill bans producers, importers and marketers of alcoholic drinks from sponsoring any event using their brands or logos, with an exception for industrial fairs and scientific activities. They also won’t be allowed to distribute gifts, samples or promotions.

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