EUCAM - European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing

Turkish Alcohol Sector Attacks New Advertising Restrictions

21 July 2009

Turkish Alcohol Sector Attacks New Advertising Restrictions Source: Reuters

Istanbul, July 6 - Turkish alcohol producers voiced deep concern on Monday about new advertising restrictions which they say severely curb alcohol advertisements in Muslim, but secular, Turkey.

They said the measures, set to go into effect in two weeks, could harm Turkey's European Union membership aspirations, limit the sector's development and hit tax revenues at a time of deep recession in the major emerging economy.

"Whilst seriously harming our image abroad, initiatives like this represent an obstacle to our efforts towards European Union membership," said Semih Mavis, who heads the Turkish operations of Efes Beer Group, the country's largest brewer.

Top sector executives attending a news conference with Mavis said the decree amounted to interference in lifestyle choices and called for an urgent review of the decree by Turkey's tobacco and alcohol regulatory board, TAPDK.

"The new decree, which is directed at banning virtually all advertisements which we produce ... strengthens the probability that Turkey will be perceived as a country where prohibitive interventions are made into people's lifestyles and their concept of entertainment," Mavis added.

The producers steered clear of directly criticising the government, but secularists in Turkey suspect Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party of promoting a creeping conservative Islamisation of society.

Critics say restrictions on serving alcohol at municipal restaurants have been on the rise since the AK Party first took power in 2002. The AK Party denies it has an Islamist agenda.

TAPDK officials were not immediately available for comment.

Alcohol marketing is highly regulated globally. The World Health Organisation has adopted a framework which says advertising must not be aimed at minors, link consumption to enhanced physical performance or claim alcohol to be a means of resolving personal conflicts.

SHIFT AWAY FROM EU

Turkish producers said the restrictions went well beyond this and were contrary to EU practices.

The producers highlighted a new ban on linking alcohol with foods in advertisements -- a sensitive issue when it comes to Turkey's national drink, the aniseed spirit Raki, which is traditionally eaten with fish or cheese.

They also expressed concern about a ban on linking alcohol with geographic, historical, cultural and artistic values and about the vagueness of a ban on "exploiting sexuality".

Turkey's economy shrank a massive 13.8 percent in the first quarter as a result of the global crisis. Some 50 percent of the alcohol sector's revenues are paid in tax -- amounting to over three billion lira ($1.9 billion) last year.

"With this decree the TAPDK ... has encouraged the perception abroad that our country is increasingly departing from the European Union ideal," said Galip Yorgancioglu, chief executive of Mey Icki, which produces raki and other spirits.

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