Every month, the International Center for Alcohol Policies looks at responsible drinking measures around the world

Every month, the International Center for Alcohol Policies looks at responsible drinking measures around the world

Once a month, the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), which covers alcohol policies worldwide, will look at what's going on in-market to promote a responsible role for alcohol in society.

Easy does it. Russia's Prime Minister and President-elect, Vladimir Putin, has said that he favours a “gentle” rate of rises in excise taxation for alcohol and tobacco products. Putin said that it is difficult to accept that excise increases would solve all of the country’s problems, and that the government has to consider economic realities and international trade agreements. According to RIA Novosti, excise taxes on alcohol in Russia between now and 2014 will grow faster than the projected inflation rate. 

An article by EurActiv.com this month notes that observers say increased alcohol taxes and minimum pricing strategies could contribute to higher levels of “unrecorded alcohol” consumption. Experts say that unrecorded alcohol includes home-made and smuggled alcohol and alcohol intended for industrial or medical uses, and warn of associated health risks, particularly with so-called surrogate alcohol. The World Health Organization’s most recent statistics on unrecorded alcohol show that it accounted for 22% of total adult consumption in Europe in 2005.

Investigation. A four-month investigation into Inner Mongolia’s milk wine production has shown that about 80% of milk wine on sale in the country was produced with powdered creamer instead of cow’s milk. Official standards for milk wine production require a blend of alcohol with fresh milk or whey before the fermentation process: Currently, only 19 companies are qualified to produce the beverage. The inquiry led to 88 dairy companies’ removal from the official dairy producers list.

Milk wine is distilled kumiss, a traditional Mongolian beverage made with fermented milk, which is culturally associated with medicinal applications. According to cultural anthropologist and author of Drinking Occasions, Dwight B. Heath, milk wine is thought to prolong life and defend against rheumatism, tuberculosis, and coronary heart disease. Kumiss consumption is also important to celebrations of courtship and marriage, as well as annual reunions.

Zoned. Officials at London Metropolitan University are considering the establishment of on-campus alcohol-free zones to accommodate Muslim students, who now comprise 20% of the school’s student population. Vice Chancellor Malcolm Gillies said that for many students, drinking alcohol was "an immoral experience,” and that alcohol availability on campus had become a matter of cultural sensitivity. 

London Metropolitan University Muslim students spoke against the proposed alcohol-free zones in another news article, and said that alcohol must not become a religious issue that could divide the student body. Some countries already have a cultural tradition of balance between Muslims who abstain from alcohol consumption and others who drink, including a proportion of the Turkish population and among Muslims in former Yugoslavia.

Inaugural extensions. In the US, Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray plans to introduce three alcohol-related measures in his projected 2013 budget. Gray’s proposals include allowing bars to serve alcohol for one additional hour per night, permitting liquor stores to open at 7:00 am rather than 9:00 am, and extending service times during the next two presidential inaugurations. The Mayor’s office expects the changes would generate an additional US$5.3m in sales taxes for the city.

In other parts of the world, it is not uncommon for alcohol sales to be prohibited during times of elections or government events. Examples include a nationwide 36-hour alcohol ban during elections, temporary alcohol bans on election days and vote-counting days in certain parts of India, and 'dry day' periods in Peru before and during voting time frames. In Turkmenistan, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov recently declared a new “Happiness Week” holiday to mark “an era of power and happiness” for the country, then, according to media reports, promptly imposed a week-long ban on alcohol sales.

New Rules. In the Indian state of Kerala, under a new state government order effective from 1 April, the maximum amount of 'foreign-made foreign liquor' (FMFL) an individual is allowed to possess at any given time has been reduced from 4.5 litres to 2.5 litres, in addition to a reduction from 12 bottles to six bottles for beer, and from 2.5 litres to 1.5 litres for traditional “toddy.”

There is disparity across states in India on a range of alcohol policy issues, including legal purchase and consumption age, taxes, and even whether alcohol sale and consumption is permitted at all. This can be a contributing factor to cross-border trade and consumption. For example, the TNN reports an increase in smuggling of Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) and beer from the city of Chandigarh into the states of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, where alcohol beverages sell for prices around twice the levels of those in Chandigarh. In Uttar Pradesh, a nearly 50% excise tax increase for distilled spirits is scheduled to take effect from 1 May.

Smell test. In a recent South Africa Supreme Court of Appeal ruling, presiding judges concluded that police officials are not permitted to arrest a person for drink driving on the basis of detecting the scent of alcohol on the driver. The ruling was issued in favour of a police officer who was arrested without a warrant by colleagues who suspected him of drink driving.

As efforts continue around the world to combat drink driving, the journal Traffic Injury Prevention has published a series of papers on drink driving situations in low- to middle-income countries. The series is associated with ICAP's Global Actions on Harmful Drinking, and focuses on information collected in China, Colombia, Nigeria, and Vietnam. The introductory article highlights the foundational role of good quality data for identifying programmes and policies that address alcohol-related road safety concerns.

One at a time. At the Toronto Blue Jays sell-out baseball home opener against the Boston Red Sox earlier this month, fans in the stadium’s so-called 'cheap seats' were limited to purchasing only one beer at a time. The decision was described as a security measure taken in response to a frequency of upper-deck brawls at the stadium.

Meanwhile, the National Football League (NFL) in the US recently recommended to all of its 32 clubs that they require fans who are ejected from stadiums to pay for and complete an online course. The classes cost up to US$100 and focus on the league’s “Fan Code of Conduct” policy, responsible drinking behaviours, and tolerance for visiting fans. Environmental changes have also been used to help make public drinking safer, with interventions including the establishment of attractive and well-maintained premises and restrooms, as well as common spaces with less crowding and more available seating.

And, finally:

15 minutes of chacha. Georgian officials have voiced support for a fountain that will dispense alcohol instead of water once a week for 10 to 15 minutes to attract tourists. The fountain, which is currently under construction, will distribute 'chacha', a traditional Georgian spirit distilled from grapes, and will sit on top of a 25-metre-high tower in the Black Sea resort of Batumi. 

The International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP) is a not-for-profit organisation supported by major international producers of beverage alcohol. Established in 1995, ICAP’s mission is to promote understanding of the role of alcohol in society and to help reduce harmful drinking worldwide. ICAP’s efforts to foster dialogue and partnerships in the alcohol policy field are shaped by its commitment to pragmatic and feasible solutions to reducing harm that can be tailored to local and cultural considerations and needs. ICAP has been recognised by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) as a non-governmental organisation in Special Consultative Status.

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