Project 21.663 aims to reform the Law of Regulation and Marketing of Beverages with Alcoholic Content to allow companies that produce, distribute and commercialize alcoholic beverages, sponsor their brands in stadiums, gyms, sporting goods, federations, uniforms, and the National Olympic Committee (CON).
The initiative presented in 2015 by Otto Guevara and currently promoted by the Social Christian congressman Erwen Masís, was on the agenda of the National Legislative Assembly for a vote in the second debate this past week, however, a group of deputies -among them the broad front José María Villalta- sent the project for consultation in the Supreme Court.
This request for consultation causes the bill to be left out of the vote and depends on the will and convocation of the Executive Power, in the period of extraordinary sessions of Congress that begins this December 1st.
Masís regretted the action and commented: “Sport in Costa Rica suffers from a lack of support and commitment on our part. It is unfortunate that having the opportunity to return part of the joys that many give us, some prefer to obstruct and limit an entire link that generates a production chain at the cantonal and national level”. The only prohibition contemplated in the project is to place the logo of the company’s brand on minor league uniforms.
Proposal for the law threatens public health
For the doctor of the Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (IAFA), Luis Eduardo Sandí, this bill goes against public health. “What advertising does is increase the consumption of a product and, unfortunately, this cannot be specific. With increasing publicity, the most affected populations are adolescents and young people; precisely, the greatest problem of drug use in the country is related to the consumption of alcohol in the population under 39 years of age,” Sandí explained.
The doctor stressed that there is already an important public health problem since one in three adolescents reports that they have consumed alcohol in the last year, and one in two of these young people has harmful consumption.
“The scientific evidence is overwhelming in showing that the more advertising, the more consumption. The most vulnerable populations are those with the greatest social and age disadvantage, which are adolescents and those with unequal conditions. If we want to favor sports and favor the development of other activities in young people, the most appropriate thing is to increase the tax on alcoholic beverages,” explained the IAFA doctor.
According to Sandí, this technique (taxation) generated results related to smoking, for example, he mentioned that tobacco control, the increase in its tax, and the abolition of its advertising, has caused an impressive decrease in tobacco consumption.
“The premise that the money that comes in will favor sport is a fallacy because we can have money to finance sport, but the cost that the country is paying in hundreds of thousands of young people addicted is an extremely high price to favor a group “, added the doctor.
Sponsorship increases teen alcohol use
Dr. Giselle Amador, the representative of the Costa Rica Saludable organization and former Minister of Health, pointed out the importance of being aware that children, adolescents, and young people are at greater risk of being influenced by advertising, and of associating the issue of sport with consumption.
“For an adult that is more difficult because the adult thinks better and knows that advertising is to sell; You can make the decision that your favorite soccer team has nothing to do with the jerseys having the logo of a beer or a distillate. In the brain of a child or adolescent, this leads to immediately associate consumption with the footballer, with the athlete who is wearing that shirt with a logo,” said the former Minister of Health.
According to Amador, it is proven with research that advertising in these types of events represents an increase in consumption in people of legal age and that there is a decrease in the age of initiation of alcohol consumption when these minors are not exposed to this type of sponsorship.
Ministry of Health sends a statement against the project to the Assembly
Following the approval in the first debate of this bill, the Ministry of Health sent its pronouncement against the initiative to the Legislative Assembly. The ministry was concerned about a series of statements that support the project since according to the Ministry, they do not have scientific support and that is essential in public health.
“Very contrary to what the proponents affirm, advertising does affect people’s consumption decisions, and in the case of minors, the incidence it has is greater, which is why it is not possible to approve the proposed project, as it seeks to encourage alcohol consumption in some way,” says the statement signed by Minister of Health, Dra. Alejandra Acuña.
Likewise, it is indicated that the bill implies a violation of the right to health, as well as the principle of progressiveness in human rights since it would bring down the achievements that the Costa Rican State has achieved in this field.
“It has been recognized that the advertising of legal drugs such as alcohol should be subject to restrictions, as it is a risky activity. These restrictions are mandatory and their purpose is to protect consumers,” says the statement.
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that alcohol consumption in Latin America is higher than in other regions of the world, so the institution proposes to fight against the harmful effects of this consumption.