On December 17th, the House of Representatives sanctioned the bill submitted by the Executive Branch in 2017 – previously approved by the Senate in July, 2019 - dealing with the “problematic consumption of alcohol".

1. Generalities

The text approved by the Legislative Power (which must still be enacted by the Executive Power and then published), establishes in its First Article its nature of public order, which determines the impossibility of being modified or suppressed by the will of individuals. Likewise, the provisions, which are declared of general interest, are intended to contribute to managing risks and preventing damages related to the problematic consumption of alcoholic beverages, providing measures that protect and ensure the rights, integral health and well-being of the inhabitants of the Republic.

In this framework, the regulation is responsible for regulating activities connected with the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

According to its Third Article, the Law defines the alcoholic beverage as "any beverage whose alcohol content, natural or acquired is equal to or greater than 0.1% (zero with one percent) of its volume", except " pharmaceutical preparations, syrups and other medicinal preparations that use authorized by the health authority ”.

2. Registration

The competent authority on the subject will be the Executive Power, through the National Drug Board, without prejudice to the powers that the current legal system ascribes to other agencies, such as the special case of the Ministry of Public Health.

Within the last named body, a mandatory Registry of “Alcoholic Beverages Sellers and related activities” will be created, in which those natural or legal persons who intend to distribute, market, sell, offer or supply alcoholic beverages must be registered. Said Registry shall be regulated by Decree of the Executive Power.

One of the main issues around the discussed law is the permission issued by the Ministry of Public Health to the subjects mentioned in the previous paragraph. It is a necessary requirement for them to be able to distribute, market, sell, offer and supply alcoholic beverages. As it is a permission, the act will be personal, precarious, indivisible, inalienable, intrasmissible and revocable for well-founded reasons.

3. Limitations and prohibitions

The Tenth Article of this Law prohibits the sale, offer or supply of alcoholic beverages to people under 18 years of age, either in exchange for money or free of charge. For its part, the sale, offer or supply to persons over 18 years of age will be reserved for those subjects that comply with current regulations and are registered in the aforementioned Registry.

Following the line that has been said, the Eleventh Article prohibits the offer of alcoholic beverages in any educational center located in the national territory.

The Fourteenth Article provides that any establishment authorized for the sale, offer or supply of alcoholic beverages must place a sign, advertisement or similar with “visible letters and visual access”, which establishes the following caption: “This establishment is authorized for the sale of alcoholic beverages. The sale to minors of 18 years is prohibited”. Likewise, in those premises that do not have the authorization granted by the competent authority for alcoholic beverages to be consumed there (Art. 75, Law No. 17.243), in addition to the aforementioned advertisement, another one must be placed with the following phrase: "The sale of alcoholic beverages between 24:00 hours and 06:00 hours is prohibited."

For its part, Article Seventeenth stipulates that any establishment authorized for the sale, offer or supply of alcoholic beverages whose surface area is equal to or greater than 100 m² (one hundred square meters) must allocate a specific sector separate from the drinks that do not contain alcohol. The characteristics of those premises with a smaller surface area will be subject to regulation.

In this context of prevention, Article Fifteenth prohibits the conduct of competitions, tournaments or public shows (the Third Article defines the latter as “any act that aims to cause the concurrence of people, through attractions aimed at raising contemplation, delight or recreation, having previously been convened, planned, publicized or programmed”), with or without profit, that promote the intake of alcoholic beverages, with the exception of tasting or sampling modalities. Likewise, these shows must guarantee the access in a visible and hygienic place to free drinking water dispensers, in relation to the number of people attending; without prejudice to the obligation to arrange the sale of bottled drinking water.

4. Advertising, promotion and sponsorship of alcoholic beverages

Article Nineteenth of the commented law prohibits any form of advertising or promotion of alcoholic beverages aimed at children under 18 years of age, as well as one that contains or represents such under aged persons (including images that seem similar to their physiognomic characteristics). In this context, advertising may not transmit (either directly or indirectly) health virtues or misrepresentations regarding the consumption of this kind of drinks; associate them with meanings that express an improvement in physical, intellectual or work performance, among other issues with similar purposes. Nor may advertising of alcoholic beverages be presented immediately before, during or immediately after the issuance of programs specifically aimed at under aged persons.

Promotion through the distribution of information by mail, telephone or Internet technologies whose recipients are under eighteen years of age is also forbidden, as well as the distribution of samples of alcoholic beverages, invitations, graphic material, promotional material such as t-shirts, caps, etc., or similar objects, alluding to this type of drinks or their brands. The sponsorship or any other form of financing of sports, educational, cultural or leisure activities, aimed specifically at children under 18 is also prohibited, if this involves the advertising of such sponsorship, or the dissemination of brands, symbols or images associated with alcoholic beverages.

Also, all advertising messages must contain the following message: “The sale to persons under 18 years of age is prohibited”, notwithstanding the power that the law grants to the Executive Power to determine other preventive messages.

As for the labeling of beverage containers, they must contain their alcoholic strength, as well as the preventive messages provided by law and those available in the future.

Finally, it is established that all publicity, sponsorship or support that involves the dissemination of brands, symbols or images associated with alcoholic beverages in public shows, must contain in all the expressions used whether graphic, television, audio or any other means or type, 15% (fifteen percent) of the notoriously exposed space for preventive messages.

5. Supervision and penalties

The law creates the Coordinating Board for the Control of the Market of Alcoholic Beverages, which will be responsible for, among others, the development of a strategic plan to monitor compliance with the law. The majority of public ministries will also have powers to oversee compliance with the provisions of the law, such inspection materializing with the cross-linking of information between the different agencies, and will be centralized in the Ministry of Public Health. Said body shall have the competence to complete the administrative procedure, dictate the acts and punish the offenders.

Sanctions vary from the observation and warning, through fines of 1,000 IU to 100,000 IU, and temporary or permanent suspensions of permits, as well as temporary or permanent closure of establishments (prior judicial process), cessation of publicity and performance against advertising, at the cost of the offender. The sanctions will be arranged taking into account the background and the seriousness of the conduct, which may be accumulated.

Montevideo, December 2019