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, looks at what's going on in-market to promote a responsible role for alcohol in society.

Souvenirs. Estonian market research company TNS Emor has released the results of a survey indicating that 79% of Finnish tourists visiting Estonia purchase alcoholic beverages to take back with them. The researchers found that the purchases by Finnish tourists averaged EUR122 (US$170) per person and accounted for 34% of Estonian stores’ total alcohol sales. 

The Government of Finland is reportedly considering new customs rules to discourage the large-scale import of alcohol from Estonia. Under the proposal, the country's customs authorities would adopt a more restrictive interpretation of personal consumption, and travelers importing more than 90 litres of wine, 110 litres of beer, 20 litres of distilled spirits, or 10 litres of “other” alcohol beverages would be required to provide an explanation. Existing EU rules do not limit allowances for those traveling from one Member State to another, provided that alcohol imports are intended for personal consumption.

Industrial. The Ministry of Economy of the Russian region of Omsk has proposed a ban on retail sales of alcohol in certain industrial areas. The measure is intended to improve safety in high-risk workplaces, and 80 industrial properties have been identified as “locations of sources of increased danger,” including oil and gas refining facilities and chemical plants.

Ireland’s Department of Transport has also been reviewing workplace policies, and has drafted legislation requiring employers to conduct sobriety tests on their drivers. Irish Road Haulage Association president Eoin Gavin said that the proposed regulations would be “impossible to enforce and implement,” as commercial drivers are often away from base and begin shifts at different times of day throughout the week. A Department spokesperson said that they would consult with other agencies before taking further steps.

New low. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that national per capita alcohol consumption decreased for the sixth consecutive year in 2013, to a 17-year low of 9.88 litres. Commonwealth Securities chief economist Craig James speculated that Australian consumers are becoming more selective, prioritising quality over quantity of alcohol, and also becoming more conscious of health issues. 

Recent data compiled by the British Beer & Pub Association indicate that per capita alcohol consumption in the UK reached a 23-year low in 2013. At 7.7 litres per person, consumption was lower than in any year since 1990 and 18% lower than the national all-time high of 9.4 litres recorded in 2004. BBPA estimated that UK inhabitants consumed 7bn fewer units of alcohol in 2013 than in 2004. 

Daily. Drawing upon a review of research on the health effects of alcohol, Dr Kari Poikolainen contended that, contrary to recommended daily allowances in the UK and elsewhere, it is safe to consume a bottle of wine each day, the equivalent of approximately 10 units of alcohol. “The weight of the evidence shows moderate drinking is better than abstaining and heavy drinking is worse than abstaining – however the moderate amounts can be higher than the guidelines say,” said Poikolainen.

Evidence for drinking recommendations is based on scientific research about the relationship between alcohol consumption and outcomes – harmful, as well as beneficial. For example, long-term heavy drinking includes increased risk of liver cirrhosis, and short-term heavy drinking episodes are associated with increased risk for accidents and injuries. Steady light to moderate drinking, on the other hand, is associated with certain health benefits, such as cardio-protective effects. 

Packaged. The Cameroon Government has introduced standards for distilled spirits that prohibit the packaging of spirits in plastic sachets. The standards will also regulate the production, ingredients, and abv for all spirits-based beverages. Officials said that the standards are part of efforts to reduce the illicit alcohol market in the country.

State Control Committee (SCC) Head Alexander Yakobson has submitted legislation to the Belarus Government proposing a ban on the sale of beer in 1.5-litre units. The proposal also includes a ban on sales of beer in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles with volumes of 1.5 litres or above. Yakobson said that these policies would help protect domestic producers against price dumping.

Self-regulation. Alcohol producers in Nicaragua have reportedly agreed to a voluntary alcohol advertising code, the Unique Code of Advertising Self-Regulation. The Nicaraguan Institute for the Promotion of Responsible Consumption joined with the Liquor Co of Nicaragua, the Nicaragua Brewing Co, and major Nicaraguan importers and distributors in launching the code, which includes regulations on broadcast and print advertisements and principles on underage youth protection that are in alignment with the WHO Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol.

The recent annual meeting of the International Council on Advertising Self-Regulation (ICAS) in Amsterdam brought together self-regulatory organisations from Europe, Australia, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, and Mexico to facilitate best practice discussions and information exchanges among the attendees. The event featured a presentation that provided guidance on local implementation of the International Chamber of Commerce Framework for Responsible Marketing Communications of Alcohol.

GIs. The Parliament of Singapore has approved legislation that would create a geographical indications (GI) registry in an effort to improve enforcement of trade protections for EU products such as wines and olive oil. The measure follows the recent negotiation of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), and officials said it would safeguard the interests of Singapore consumers while granting international rights holders additional tools for pursuing infringements.

Such provisions have come under fire in the US. EU GI provisions in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could prohibit brewers in the country from using terms like “Oktoberfest” for their beers. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin said that the proposal would create “an uneven playing field” for US businesses to compete internationally, and that she considered the restrictions “an attack on our proud traditions.”

Heritage. The Federation of Belgian Brewers submitted an application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for Belgian beer culture to be included on the UNESCO list of immaterial cultural heritage. The Federation’s petition stressed the strong cultural identity and variety of Belgian beers, which number more than 1,000 varieties.

The French Sénat has passed legislation recognising wine as “part of the heritage” of France. Senators unanimously approved legislative amendments declaring that “wine, fruit of the vine, and the wine regions are part of the cultural and gastronomic heritage and landscape of France.” Senators reportedly rejected an amendment that would have designated beer similarly.

And finally,

Increase. The Danish Government is reportedly increasing the minimum abv of non-alcohol beer from 0.1% to 0.5% to improve the nation’s health. Health Minister Nick Hækkerup said that the increase would make the non-alcohol beverages taste more like “real” beer, encouraging their consumption as an alternative, and that therefore “it is a health initiative to raise the limit, even though it may sound strange”.