THE GOVERNMENT TRY TO PROTECT FROM ALCOHOLISM BY USING BANS
Last year the World Health Organization recently put Lithuania among the countries with the highest consumption of alcohol, per capita, in Europe. Because of alcohol usage people are killed on the road, children are suffering.
As a response to these negative results Lithuania’s coalition government have started stricter measures plan to change the situation by legislation banning alcohol advertising entirely from newspaper, radio, TV and online portals, restricts alcohol selling hours and bans the advertising of alcoholic beverages. But bans have gotten a lot of negative reactions too.
Lithuania’s health minister Veryga says that everything starts by changing cultural habits. “Alcohol is killing young people, people die on the roads and we have very high suicide rates”.
In 2015 with 30 suicides per 100 000 inhabitants, Lithuania registered by far the highest rate of suicide among the EU Member States.
Also Lithuania is the third country in Europe by alcohol consumption per capita in liters of pure alcohol, according to European Commission.
To make a change government shortened the time of selling alcohol. Now Alcohol is to be sold from 10.00 to 20.00, Monday to Saturday, and from 10.00 to 15.00 – on Sundays (now – 8.00 to 22.00, daily), and increasing the legal drinking age from 18 to 20.
The last one was most controversially, according to the people’s opinions. They say this change will not solve the problem because mostly alcohol addicted are middle-age citizens.
Opposition also stated that a person is an adult at the age of 18, when you have rights, responsibilities, you can marry, drive. “Our main argument is that we believe in young adults and their responsibility – and we are not alcoholics”.
Regina, who is living in the village of Alytus district, says when the busy season in the villages starts, it is difficult to do everything by her family so other villagers come to help with fieldwork. But mostly she supposed to prepare food and alcoholic drinks during the work day. Also, usually spend their earned money for buying alcohol as well.
„For me would be better only money. But they need alcohol, then they can work for you. And this is happening in all regions“ Regina simply explains the situation.
She says that mostly these people live alone or are divorced because of drinking. So the goal of the day for them are to get money to buy alcohol or just get it directly. However the problem also exists in families, children have to see drunk parents and can not avoid conflicts. The problem becomes more complex.
But there is no need to travel to villages or regions.
Last year, in December, one member of parliament Linas Balsys got drunk at work. The journalists that were in the Parliament place at this time asked to use the alabaster, it has showed 1.82. The politician argued that it is because of medicament. When police came, politician was gone and true had disappeared too.
There are more such stories related to alcohol addition, however many of them remain unspoken. Problems solving by drinking alcohol have come from the previous century as Lithuania was occupied Soviet Union. However the past shadow cannot disappear.
THE SOCIETY IS DISSATISFIED
Finally, it has become a more complex issue. Residents do not deny that the problem of alcohol consumption is rooted in Lithuania, however many consider that bans are not the right solution for the issue. They are angry that the government does not hear society and decide on them.
Residents of capital and some people from regions gathered in peaceful protest at the parliamentary palace, there were about 1000 participants.
“We are not sick”, “No - forbid!”, read some messages written on the poster in protestants hands. “Independence is not a disease.”
“None of the authorities in government spoke, did not answer, did not ask, what we, organizers of events, do to reduce the availability of alcohol during events, although we have a lot of experience - we work for at least 25 years.” Protest organizer Algirdas Barniškis-Blėka said.
“Freedom for rock’n’roll” was the name of the protest, what means that new planned alcohol bans restrict people’ freedom to choose.
Legendary Lithuania group “Antis” lieder explained that 30 years ago people fought for the independence of Lithuania, rocked the Soviet Union in the rock march, but now it is time when politicians came to power that we are not worthy of freedom because they think we are unconscious and irresponsible. “What does this mean?” he asked rhetorically.
As a response to the society, several planned bans have been abandoned: such as planning to prohibit the sale of alcohol in mass events, with the exception of paid ones, to which entrance is restricted or keep an alcohol in a public place.
Now the government is considering the idea of prohibiting for minors selling toys and food products if their design or packaging resembles alcohol. It is believed that the less children will see alcohol-related items, the less alcohol they will consume in their future.
But the worst part is psychological what usually are forgotten.
“Affection and anxiety are driving forces, because when a person is consuming alcohol, he is busy, he is working - he has to think how to earn, buy alcohol or drugs” explains doctor-psychiatrist Vilma Andrejauskienė, working with addicted people.