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.

Testing. Argentina’s Transportation Minister Florencio Randazzo announced new regulations for train operators and publicised CCTV footage of operators reading, using mobile telephones, and sleeping while trains were running. The regulations require random workplace medical tests for alcohol and drugs, and operators will have to re-apply for their licences annually.

Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport recently performed approximately 20,000 medical checks on federal transport operators as part of its 'Summer Operation' for the Comprehensive Security of Tourists 2013. Staff from the Directorate General of Protection and Preventive Medicine in Transportation tested 20,386 operators of maritime, rail, air, and road transport for alcohol or drug use, finding that only 0.3% were unfit to work.

Cyclists. Belgium’s Open VLD party is calling for amendments to reduce penalties for intoxicated cycling. An Open VLD spokesperson said that it made no sense to suspend a driving licence for a cycling offense. Currently, cyclists registering a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 1.5 mg/ml or greater can face a fine of up to EUR2,000 and a potential one-month to permanent licence suspension. 

In the Olomouc Region of the Czech Republic, hospital admissions of cyclists involved in road traffic crashes have risen by a factor of three since the beginning of 2013, with one-third of cycling-related injuries involving alcohol. Police statistics indicate that around 250 cycling crashes occurred in the region, resulting in two fatalities, 36 severe injuries, and 179 minor injuries. A police spokesperson said that alcohol consumption, recklessness, and overestimation of cycling prowess are the most common causes of crashes.

Labels. Turkey’s Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority has announced that, within ten months, all alcohol products sold domestically must include clearly visible graphics that discourage drink driving, underage alcohol consumption, and consumption during pregnancy, accompanied by the text “Alcohol is not your friend”. The new regulation establishes minimum dimensions for graphic boxes, and stipulates that the text be printed in bold, black Helvetica font.

The Israeli Knesset Economics Committee has reportedly approved regulations requiring health warning messages on alcohol bottles and alcohol advertisements. Labels and ads for beverages with an abv of 15.5% or less will bear the warning message “Should avoid excessive drinking”, while beverages with a higher abv will require the message “Excessive consumption of alcohol endangers life and harms health”.

For more information on international health warning requirements, click here.

Terms. In France, a Culture Ministry commission has reportedly approved the term “beuverie express” - which translates as “express drinking” - to describe the practice of extreme drinking rather than the commonly used English-derived term “le binge drinking”. The Ministry has defined beuverie express as “the massive absorption of alcohol, generally in a group, aimed at provoking drunkenness in the minimum amount of time”.

There is general agreement that drinking patterns associated with rapid intoxication carry with them the potential for considerable social, psychological, and physiological harm. Extreme drinking behaviors among young people can be influenced by developmental, cultural, and historical contexts. Measures that have been used to address extreme drinking focus on changing cultural attitudes towards drunkenness and making the drinking environment safer. Such initiatives include education, particularly social norming, and responsible hospitality approaches.

Workplace. A Portuguese court has ordered a waste management company to rehire an employee it had dismissed in 2012 because he consumed alcohol during work hours before being involved in a traffic collision. The court ruled that, because the company had not adopted an explicit policy on alcohol consumption during the work day, grounds for termination were not met. The ruling reportedly observed that, “with alcohol, the worker can forget about life’s hardships and be more committed to collecting trash”, and awarded the employee 14 months of back pay.

In Mexico, Youth Integration Centers Director Carmen Fernandez Caceres spoke at a labour union conference about alcohol and the workplace. Fernandez Caceres said that 40% of Mexico’s workforce exhibited alcohol-related work absenteeism, adding that many routinely elect to stay home from work on Mondays after engaging in “explosive” alcohol consumption during weekends. She also estimated that between 60% and 70% of industrial accidents and confrontations were alcohol-related.

Illegal. The Maharashtra Excise Department issued a new directive requiring consumers to destroy imported alcohol bottles and scrape the labels off of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) bottles before selling them to bottle collectors. Department officials said that the majority of bootlegging cases in the state involve refilling old bottles and selling the counterfeit beverages below standard retail prices.

Barcelona police have also been facing illegal alcohol sales issues, and are increasing efforts to stop unlicensed street vendors from selling alcohol in the city’s tourism zones. Critics of the sales point out that the untaxed beer sales place commercial pressures on legitimate alcohol vendors and also pose a health risk to consumers, as cans are often stored in sewer drains and trash bins to avoid police detection.

Penalties. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has announced that the government is drafting legislation that would introduce more stringent drink-driving penalties including a driving license suspension of up to 10 years for offenders and the confiscation of their vehicles. Santos’ announcement follows a recent controversial court case in which a Bogota judge refused a prosecutor’s request to give a custodial sentence to a student drink-driver that killed two passengers in a road traffic crash.

Officials in Cali, Colombia have already begun road safety efforts of their own locally, and proposed increased law enforcement operations on roads leading to and from entertainment districts with a high traffic volume during nighttime hours. Officials expressed concerns about high rates of drink-driving by visitors to the districts, and cited figures indicating that Cali has the highest rate of alcohol-related road traffic crashes in Colombia. Local businesses in Cali and Yumbo are currently working with ICAP to develop programmes to reduce alcohol-related harms during nightlife activities.

Smuggling. Kyrgyz border and customs officials have reportedly discovered an underwater pipeline that they assert has been used to smuggle pure alcohol across the border from Kazakhstan. Kyrgyz authorities found the pipeline running under the river Chu, and announced that thousands of litres of distilled spirits may have passed through it while operational.

In Finland, customs authorities have identified a group of 13 Finnish residents who are allegedly illegally smuggling beverage alcohol from Tallinn, Estonia. Officials estimate that there have been around 20,000 litres of beverage alcohol trafficked by the group over the course of 40 trips to Tallinn since 2011. Customs authorities began surveillance of the group after noting the routine, scheduled trips that were being made by the same people to Tallinn. Since June, three people have been detained and one arrested.

For additional background on informal alcohol market issues, click here.

And finally,

Payback. Developers and investors in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, described as “China’s biggest ghost town,” have reportedly begun repaying their creditors in alcohol beverages such as the traditional spirit baijiu. In addition, large-scale baijiu producers also have exchanged the sorghum-based spirit for local property, which they then sell for cash at a significant discount.

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.