Supreme Court bans use of national symbols in liquor ads

July 24, 2016
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As Costa Ricans celebrate one of the country’s most patriotic holidays Monday, the ads for the beer they’ll be drinking should, if legal, be notably unpatriotic.

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, Sala IV, ruled recently that Costa Rica’s culture, values and history cannot be associated with liquor for advertising purposes. Their ruling bans the use of national symbols and traditional Tico music in any form of advertising for alcoholic beverages.

The ruling essentially reverts the law back to what it was before 2013, when a reform to the existing law loosened the ban on using national symbols and traditional music in advertising for alcohol.

The justices’ decision also changes the nature of the National Commission for the Regulation and Control of Advertising of Alcoholic Beverages. The Sala IV ruled that representatives on the commission from the private sector and advertising agencies should not have the right to vote on commission decisions, as they alter its objectivity.

The ruling states these representatives will only be allowed to express their views during the commission’s sessions, but they will not be able to vote or influence the final resolution.

Justices also recommended that the committee hear opinions from other organizations and public agencies, such as the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Institute (IAFA) and the Child Welfare Office.

On Monday Costa Rica celebrates the Annexation of Guanacaste, one of the preferred holidays for businesses to publish and air ads displaying symbols like the national flag or the national emblem. TV and radio ads frequently use traditional Guanacaste music around that date.

A similar situation occurs in September, when businesses usually look to relate their brands with messages about Independence Day.

The national brewery Florida Bebidas said in a public statement that the ruling “required them to make some changes in their upcoming ad campaigns but they are ready to abide by the [Sala IV’s] decision.”

In IAFA’s latest National Survey on Drug Use, half of high school students admitted to having drunk alcohol at some point in their lives. Twenty percent said they are active drinkers.

The results are similar to those of Mexico and the U.S.

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