Launched on Friday, the requirement for all buyers to show their IDs when buying alcohol in most supermarkets across Lithuania has angered some older buyers who say that checking passports of grey-haired seniors is a waste of time.
© DELFI / Domantas Pipas

Meanwhile supporters of the new scheme see no problems and hope the checks will help curb sales of alcohol to underaged people and excessive alcohol consumption by everyone, which is a widespread problem in Lithuania.

Pensioner Rimas who recently turned 60 was unhappy to be asked to present his ID in a Norfa supermarket when buying beer. In his opinion, cashiers should only ID younger people.

"Nonsense. If a young person came, it would probably make sense, but when I come and I'm 60, it seems to me that it is unnecessary," Rimas told BNS but refused to disclose his last name.

Žydrūnas, a 40-year-old retail chains supplier, said in Maxima that he also bought beer but said that the new procedures would only make the lines longer without any good reason.

Some critics say the step is aimed at diverting the society's anger at politicians who are considering legislation that would have only specialized shops sell alcohol at shorter hours.

The companies that proposed the scheme, Lithuania's major supermarket chains, say the purpose is to prevent sales of alcohol to minors and raise public awareness. Vilnius residents tell BNS that the passport requirement may reduce drinking among the homeless.

Gabrielė Trepekūnaitė, a 23-year-old administrator, said after buying a bottle of sparkling wine in a Rimi supermarket she had no problem with the new scheme.

"I think it is a good thing and my opinion is very positive. I truly think that there are very many drinking people in Lithuania and alcoholics will probably not have their ID with them, this may reduce the drinking problem. I have no complaints about the initiative," said Trepekūnaitė.

Retail chains say they have increased the presence of security staff as of Friday. Rosvaldas Gorbačiovas, the head of Corporate Affairs Department at Maxima LT, told BNS people were "rather positive".

"This has particularly been observed in smaller towns where people run home and get their IDs, if they don't have them with them. Of course, it looks like we will get some angry clients, but no incidents have been reported. Our security is ready and more alert than usual," said Gorbačiovas.

The new scheme is in effect in stores of Maxima, Iki, Rimi, Norfa, Prisma, Aibė and Lietuvos Kooperatyvų Sąjunga. The Lidl chain did not join the initiative.

According to data provided by the World Health Organization, Lithuania ranks among the top three countries with the highest consumption of alcohol worldwide. The need to curb alcohol consumption has been discussed after recent crimes committed by people under the influence of alcohol.

Some politicians have suggested cutting alcohol consumption by setting up specialized stores, introducing a state monopoly of alcohol trade, raising the drinking age or fully banning alcohol ads. The opposition conservatives and the Peasant and Green Union are the strictest supporters of alcohol restrictions.

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