Pub-Quiz Prize Beers Are Banned as Finland Tightens Alcohol Laws

Winners of pub quizzes will no longer be treated to a free pint of beer in Finland, after laws on advertising alcoholic drinks were tightened to protect children.

The new statutes, put in force this month, mean it’s now illegal to advertise alcoholic beverages through games, competitions and lotteries and drinks vouchers can no longer be handed out as prizes for quiz winners.

Finland has a long history of using legislation to try to curtail alcohol consumption. Liquor sales were rationed for decades until the 1970s and alcoholic drinks stronger than 4.7 percent are only sold in government monopoly stores. Since 2008, the government has raised alcohol taxes five times, to make up as much as 80 percent of the price of a liter of beer sold in supermarkets, according to the Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry.

“Of course we need to protect kids -- but kids don’t come to bars,” said Pirjo Rytoniemi, whose Toveri pub in Helsinki has hosted pub quizzes for more than a decade. She’s still considering what to offer winners instead of beer prizes. “Why does the law allow advertising at sports events, where there are lots of children?”

Finland’s strict alcohol laws have pushed many residents to buy their drinks abroad, as unlimited imports are allowed from European Union countries for personal use.

The new rule also bans beer commercials in public places, such as bus stops and billboards, while sponsoring sports events and concerts is still allowed. To comply, Finnish truckers have had to strip beer ads off their vehicles, something foreign distributors aren’t required to do.

Companies are also barred from posting photos of drinks taken by customers, though people are allowed to like products on social media, according to instructions set out by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.