Lithuania’s alcohol control policy based on bans and tax increases has failed to have any major influence on consumption habits, according to a survey carried by scientists from Vilnius University.
VU scientist Algirdas Bartkus is calling for the reduction of excises on all alcoholic beverages. “If we take a look at the excise policy, so it should not be satisfying in essence. The existing excise level is incompatible with income and excises in neighboring countries,” Bartkus told a press conference on Thursday, introducing the survey commissioned by the Lithuanian Business Confederation. In his words, Lithuania needs to adapt its excise policy in response to decisions in neighboring countries as, otherwise, it risks supporting and promoting their markets at the expense of its own producers and sellers.
VU experts propose introducing annual excise reviews in response to residential income and excise policy changes in neighboring countries. According to Bartkus, the average excises in neighboring countries and other EU member states should be a reference point. He recommends cutting the existing beer excise duty by 11 percent, and also reducing the ones for strong alcoholic beverages and wine by 14 percent and 51 percent respectively. He says excises are higher in richer EU states and smaller in less rich ones. The VU survey shows the legal sales of alcohol in Lithuania dropped around 7 percent last year but people bought three times more alcohol abroad. Meanwhile, Lithuania’s Ministry of Health claimed in a statement on Thursday that the latest official data show the measures aimed at reducing alcohol consumption in Lithuania have served their purpose as the level of alcohol consumption and its damage has decreased. According to the ministry, Lithuania is not a pioneer in this area as similar anti-alcohol measures are being successfully implemented in many foreign countries. Figures from Statistics Lithuania show the amount of pure alcohol per capita has dropped by 2 liters since 2016 when the existing anti-alcohol measures were introduced, and the amount of alcohol consumed by people over 15 is the lowest in ten years. Lithuania raised the legal drinking age to 20 last year and also tightened alcohol advertising and increased alcohol excises.