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.

Retail. Some community groups and officials in the Mexican state Nuevo León have criticised the Municipality of Monterrey for permitting pharmacies to sell alcohol beverages. Some critics contended that it is inappropriate for pharmacies to sell alcohol because those businesses are traditionally associated with health and medicine. Monterrey Councillor Eugenio Montiel Amoroso called for the issue to be reviewed with an emphasis on communicating consistent messages to young people.

Russia’s State Duma lawmakers are currently drafting federal legislation that would prohibit alcohol sales from shops in residential buildings, and plan to further address the common informal availability outside of legal hours for alcohol sales. Hours of sale restrictions are commonly bypassed by illegal home deliveries and stores offering alcohol as a promotional free gift with the purchase of inexpensive consumer items marked up in price.

Prosecution. In India, Pune city traffic police have begun using advanced breath-testing devices that embed photographs of drivers with their test results. Assistant Commissioner of Police for Traffic Kavita Nerkar said the addition of photographic records was intended to make the system “foolproof” by preventing suspects from contesting the authenticity of test results when prosecuted.

Drink-driving offences in Ireland have declined by approximately 60% since the introduction of random breath-testing in 2006. However, despite increased prosecutions, road-traffic offences are reportedly the most frequently-challenged in courts, with successful prosecutions in 2013 declining 15% compared with 2012 and 42% compared with 2006.

Mixed. Toronto Public Health plans to recommend that the local Government prohibit the sale of energy drinks mixed with alcohol beverages on city property. The measure would also apply to all local events subject to city alcohol permits, including wedding receptions and large cultural events. A spokesperson for the Canadian Beverage Association spoke against the proposal, contending that it was inappropriate to exclusively target energy drinks and not include other caffeinated beverages.

In Lithuania, advertising campaigns for energy drinks are now required to include messaging that warns against mixing caffeinated drinks with alcohol beverages. The law follows legislation enacted earlier this year that reportedly introduced a minimum purchase age of 18 for energy drinks and banned their advertising in schools, cinemas, at sporting events, and in other venues frequented by underage youth. 

Taxation. Pennsylvania State University Economics Professor Dr Jon Nelson cautions against basing alcohol policy on a linear price-consumption relationship that does not acknowledge differences in individual behaviour. Summarising findings from his systematic reviews of relevant economic research, Dr Nelson writes: “The cumulative evidence demonstrates that alcohol consumption by heavy drinkers is not very responsive to alcohol prices, which calls into question those public policies that rely extensively on population-based approaches.” The author cites additional evidence indicating that demand among heavy drinkers remains highly inelastic regardless of age or gender, and concludes: “The evidence does not support higher prices or taxes as an effective alcohol policy.”

The relative impact of taxation as a policy measure also depends on the context within which it is applied, and may have unintended outcomes. In low- and middle-income countries where the unrecorded alcohol market can be strong and accounts for a large proportion of all alcohol consumed, high rates of taxation may be of limited utility and lead to a rise in grey- or black-market activity. In addition, large differences in excise taxation rates between neighbouring countries can lead to revenue losses from cross-border trade. 

Labelled. Proposed rules on health warning graphics have generated disagreement among members of the Joint Committees of Agriculture and Health in Chile. Senator José García Ruminot said that, although legislators had reached consensus on content advising against underage drinking and alcohol consumption by pregnant women, there remained “differing opinions regarding the characteristics of the warnings such as ... font and size.” 

In Argentina, the Chamber of Deputies of Buenos Aires has approved draft legislation requiring drink-driving awareness warnings to be included on alcohol beverage labels. Deputy Walter Caruso said that all alcohol containers would bear the message “If you drink alcohol, do not drive” under his legislation, in order to promote awareness of the risks associated with consuming alcohol before driving. 

Cider. Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture has approved a proposal submitted by business organisation Support of Russia that would designate cider, mead, and perry producers as farmers. Farmers are able to receive government subsidies on fertilisers, fuel, and other agricultural needs as well as zero rates exemptions from income tax and preferential rates on transportation taxes.

Polish government officials are also promoting cider production, by calling for cider advertisements to be permitted in the country. Following a recent Russian embargo on Polish fruit imports, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of the Economy Janusz Piechocinski has proposed that cider ads be allowed immediately, in the hope that they would stimulate the Polish agri-food sector and boost exports.

Undergrad. In the US, University of Michigan administrators have shortened the period for undergraduates to move into campus housing from three days to two and restricted early move-in times for individual students. A university spokesperson confirmed that the relatively high volume of alcohol-related calls to police in the Fall of 2013 was “one of many factors” in the decision to not keep the extended days and early move-in as options.

Citing safety concerns, administrators at Arizona State University have banned beer kegs and drinking games in designated 'tailgate' parking lots prior to on-campus American football games. The new rules, which will take effect during the 2014 season, prohibit kegs and games that encourage “reckless consumption” in lots surrounding Sun Devil Stadium.

Grocery. Around 15% of prospective Swedish Members of Parliament are in favour of extending alcohol sales in the country's grocery stores. An online survey of 563 of the 600 parliamentary candidates considered most likely to be elected at the next general election, asked if the sale of beer, wine, and spirits should be allowed in grocery stores as well as in the state-run alcohol retail monolpoly, Systembolaget. While the overall response in favour was 15%, voting differed significantly by party, rising to an average of 30% among the incumbent Alliance parties’ candidates.

The Finns Party is calling for a liberalisation of alcohol regulations in its new party manifesto, including ending state alcohol retailer Alko’s monopoly by permitting higher-abv beers and wine to be sold at grocery stores. Second Deputy Chairperson Hanna Mäntylä said: “Finns are practically living in the prohibition era.” Subjecting the entire population to sales restrictions because of “a small group of problem users” is disproportionate, she argued.

And finally,

Substitution. Some Australian researchers contend that the relatively high price of alcohol beverages in the country has resulted in higher rates of illicit substance use. The findings were attributed to substitution patterns motivated by “sensible consumer behaviour,” as Monash University researcher Cameron Duff noted that several “party drugs” are perceived by some young people as significantly cheaper than a night out drinking at a bar.

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.

Click here to learn more about ICAP.