Excise duty results published by the Lithuanian State Tax Inspectorate signal a decline in alcohol sales and possibly consumption, however, experts say that the information is insufficient for credible conclusions, as they do not cover the impact of illicit alcohol and alcohol purchased abroad.
Alcoholic beverages
© DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

"The initial numbers, which possibly show a tendency of declining alcohol consumption are optimistic and give hope of fighting the problem even more efficiently in the future. Nevertheless,applauding and assessing the results is still a bit too early. To be able to draw conclusions, we need to conduct a more thorough analysis, not just look at a single number that possibly shows decline," Lina Bušinskaitė-Šriubėnė, adviser to Lithuania's Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga, told BNS.

In her words, it is important to consider other factors and measures that were taken to reduce alcohol consumption levels. Since last November, Lithuania bans promotion of discounts on alcoholic beverages, organizing games, campaigns, competitions and lotteries that would encourage acquisition or consumption of alcohol.

Tadas Povilauskas, senior analyst at SEB bank, also said that the data from the State Tax Inspectorate lead to preliminary conclusions about dropping alcohol consumption.

"I believe that the Health Ministry's objective of reducing alcohol consumption is being implemented, of course, we do not know and still cannot assess the changes of the volume of shopping in Latvia by residents of northern Lithuania and the changes in southwestern Lithuania that borders Poland. It is a fact that shopping abroad has increased, however, we still have a certain overall minus (in alcohol consumption)," Povilauskas told BNS.

Data collected by the Nielsen polling company suggests that residents purchased less alcohol in retail stores. According to the Nielsen results, the amount of alcohol sold in stores fell by 11.8 percent this year, while the value of the purchased beverages went up by 2.4 percent due to increase in prices.

According to the tax data, the only increase of 14.4 percent was reported in purchases of hard liquor from excise warehouses in the first half of 2017 year-on-year, while wine sales went down by 0.4 percent, intermediate products including fortified wine fell by 3.4 percent and beer by 14.3 percent. In March through June, the period when higher excise duties were applied, purchase volumes of intermediate products from excise warehouses fell 86.7 percent, hard liquor by 56.5 percent, wine by 53.6 percent and beer by 12.9 percent.

Data from Statistics Lithuania suggests that every resident of the country over the age of 15 last year consumed an average of 13.2 liters of absolute (100-percent) legal alcohol, which is a decline by 0.8 liters from 2015. According to data from the World Health Organization, alcohol consumption in Lithuania stands at 16.3 liters of alcohol per resident of 15 and older, however, the figure dies not include illicit alcohol.

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