Feature: Finland takes outdoor alcohol ads off public space

2014-12-22 17:55:19 GMT2014-12-23 01:55:19(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Juhani Niinisto

HELSINKI, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- A landmark 14-meter beer can that stands as an advertisement for a brewery near Helsinki is to be painted red within this year and cannot be claimed to be a beer can any more.

The texts and logos on it are no longer visible. The advertisement object, located along the highway to the north of the capital city, falls victim to the stricter Finnish law to take effect in 2015.

Advertising of hard liquor has been banned for decades, and the new measures will now apply to drinks with more than 1.2 percent alcohol.

Radio and TV advertising of mild alcohol drinks can continue but can only be aired after 10 p.m. instead of current 9 p.m..

The main intention of the ban on outdoor advertisement of mild alcohol products is to protect young people in particular.

However, ice hockey stadiums will be an exception. Beer logos will continue to be seen inside ice hockey halls, on players' clothing and the sides of the rinks.

The Finnish ice hockey industry has been able to convince the law makers that the loss of the sponsorship money from the beer industry could be insurmountable.

While advertising on newspapers and Internet continues to be admissible, Finnish companies maintaining alcohol related Internet sites must delete or block any customer praise of alcohol.

Finnish breweries have been bitter about the advantage foreign producers with Internet sites outside Finland will now have.

Senior Councilor Ismo Tuominen at the Ministry of Health and Social Services told national broadcaster Yle that further tightening of alcohol ads on Internet is a challenge.

"One EU member country cannot change the Internet on its own so that there would be no advertising of alcohol," he said.

In Finland, only beers with less than 4.7 percent alcohol can be sold in normal stores, all alcohol beyond that percentage must be purchased in special state alcohol stores or consumed in restaurants.

Alcohol is expensive in Finland due to heavy special taxation. Finland has the highest tax on beer in the EU.

A litre of 4.7 percentage beer attracts a 1.51 euro (about 1.86 U.S. dollars) tax in Finland. In neighboring Estonia the tax is only 30 eurocents.

Citizens can, however, travel to low priced countries within the EU and bring in as much as they can carry. There is no limit for a traveler on bringing in alcohol from another EU country as long as it is not for sale.

In at least one easing of the rules, the state alcohol monopoly will be allowed to publish its price lists of hard liquor also on Internet. So far it has been allowed as a paper print only.

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