Latvia to raise legal age for purchasing alcohol to 20

  • 2024-03-26
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The Saeima Social and Labor Affairs Committee today approved a proposal to amend the Law on Circulation of Alcoholic Beverages, which would make it illegal to sell alcoholic beverages to persons under the age of 20.

Currently, persons aged 18 and over can purchase alcohol.

Peteris Linins, Chairman of the Board of the Latvian Beer Brewers' Association, claimed that the problem of young people drinking in Latvia is decreasing. He pointed out that the association "categorically opposes" this as there is no legitimate objective in changing the age threshold.

The biggest debate in the committee was on the change in alcohol sales hours, which had already been discussed in the subcommittee on public health. The committee today endorsed in principle the proposal to ban the sale of alcohol on weekdays and Saturdays between 8 pm and 10 am, but on Sundays and public holidays the hour of sales will be decided next week.

The Public Health Sub-Committee previously supported a proposal to ban the sale of alcohol from 3 pm on Sundays and public holidays, except in retail outlets where alcoholic beverages are sold only poured in glasses and are consumed on the premises, as well as duty-free shops. The committee could support such a proposal.

The Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance are generally not in favour of such strict restrictions on opening hours, proposing as a compromise to reduce the hours of sale of alcohol to one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. This was explained by the high impact on the population in less populated areas.

Linins said that the reduction in hours would have a negative impact on tourism, alcohol sales, which are already on a downward trend, and the state budget.

Meanwhile, a representative of the State Revenue Service noted that if the regulation that the opening hours for alcohol sales are reduced is adopted, then all retail licences will have to be re-registered, for which a state fee will have to be paid.

Ilze Aizsilniece, President of the Latvian Medical Association, stressed that public education is also important, as well as funding for addiction treatment.

The committee will continue to work on the amendments after the Easter holidays.