Health policy focuses were pitted against demands for liberalization and freedom of expression in a working group on alcohol advertising which completed its report in April.
In 2006 the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health appointed a working group to study how well monitoring of the advertising of alcohol beverages meets the objectives set in legislation and international recommendations.
Public authorities represented in the working group were the Finnish Consumer Agency and the National Product Control Agency for Welfare and Health. On the business side members came from the Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry, the Federation of the Finnish Media Industry, MTV3 Finland and the Finnish Association of Marketing Communication Agencies.
Public authorities' representatives noted that the objectives set in legislation concerning alcohol advertising have not been given sufficient attention in advertising provisions. Another problem is that the advertising provisions that were prepared in 1994 do not allow sufficient possibilities to react to the diversification of the product range and advertising.
Public authorities' representatives also thought that cooperation between the Consumer Agency and the National Product Control Agency for Welfare and Health should be intensified.
Members representing the business community thought that the control of alcohol advertising should not be increased by legislative means but by developing self-regulation. They also recommended education campaigns aimed at children and young people.
Representatives on both sides agreed that clarifying restrictions on alcohol advertising alone is not enough to stop negative trends in alcohol consumption, drinking habits and problems related to drinking.
The working group made the following recommendations, in which a broad consensus was reached:
The regulation of alcohol advertising should not be used as the sole means to prevent problems but as part of a comprehensive alcohol policy.
The Decision of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on the advertising of strong alcoholic beverages should be revised so that it takes into consideration, within the framework of the Constitution and the provisions in the Alcohol Act, the diversity of advertising of strong alcoholic beverages, indirect advertising and other sales promotion.
In provisions concerning alcohol advertising, new types of alcohol products such as gels, powders and ices should be included with alcoholic beverages.
The exchange of information and dialogue between representatives of public authorities and business and between public authorities in matters regarding alcohol advertising should be increased.
The members of the working group also thought that the exchange of information and dialogue between public authorities and business should be increased by establishing a negotiating body that would focus on the application of regulations concerning alcohol advertising.