Finnish government takes its responsibility and does not rely on window dressing by the alcohol industry

By Avalon de Bruijn

The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health proposes further restrictions on alcohol marketing. The proposed regulation contains a volume ban on alcohol marketing: In media in which alcohol is still allowed, only product information can be shown. The current Loi Evin in France is used as an inspiration.

Considering that alcohol marketing has a moderate but significant effect on alcohol consumption among young people, alcohol marketing regulations are an important element in an evidence-based alcohol policy to reduce alcohol consumption. It therefore is a wise decision by the Finnish Ministry to come up with such a proposal and not to rely on voluntary rules by the alcohol industry.

Everywhere in Europe we see new self-regulation code initiatives, which only seem to aim preventing the development of (more effective) legislation. For example, the world’s largest alcohol producers have initiated a new marketing pact in April ( This marketing pact will have three pillars: limiting exposure to an audience of which more than 30% is under-aged, restricting alcohol marketing that is particularly attractive to youth, and restricting youth exposure in social media platforms.

Essentially, actions proposed in this marketing pact are not new, most important elements have already been established in each sector. Moreover, key points in this new marketing pact have already proven to be ineffective.

The proportional standard is a measure to restrict alcohol marketing to an audience of more than 30% minors. However, this percentage does not protect minors from over-exposure. The relative number of minors in Europe is 16% and the percentage of youngsters in the age range at risk (12-17 years) is not even 6%. In practice, this means that enormous amounts of youngsters can still be reached.

Results of recently published independent monitoring exercises, co-funded by the EC (, show that volume restrictions in self-regulation are not able to protect young people from exposure to large volumes of attractive alcohol advertisements.

The other point in the industry codes is designed to prevent alcohol marketing from being particularly attractive to minors. The problem is that alcohol ads are often attractive to both minors as well as young adults. Moreover, no details on how the industry will deal with restricting alcohol marketing in online social media platforms are known yet.

It is encouraging to see that the Finnish government does not rely on these window dressing exercises of the alcohol industry, but takes action in their own hands to protect the health of their youth by restricting the volume and content of alcohol advertising.