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.

Say ‘cheese.’ A new law in the US state of Washington, effective since 1 January, requires vehicles owned by drivers with drink-driving offences to be installed with cameras trained on mandated ignition interlock devices. The law has been designed to address instances of offending drivers having another person blow into the interlock device. Officials say the photos will be used for evidence of compliance.

In India, Mumbai officials are also considering novel approaches to addressing drink driving. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said that the current penalty of a INR700 (US$13.10) fine for certain driving violations is not stringent enough, and that “blacklisting” repeat drink -driving offenders by naming them in the media and on official websites would act as a deterrent. Research shows that repeat drink-driving offenders are more likely to be involved in fatal traffic crashes in which alcohol is involved and represent a significant public safety issue.

Tourists. Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly has voted to increase duties on alcohol. The measure was backed by the Islamist Ennahda party as part of an effort to raise government revenues, but criticised as un-Islamic by opponents who favour banning the sale and consumption of alcohol outright. The Tunisian economy is heavily dependent on foreign tourism.

During a dialogue meeting on tourism, investors in the Egyptian tourism industry called for an amendment to the new Constitution that would designate tourism as an "essential asset of the national economy". An amendment to the existing Article 17 could ensure tourism would receive additional protection and support from the Government, including loans. The dialogue meeting was held amid concerns that conservative and Islamist groups, which have recently come into power, would oppose alcohol sales, which could affect the tourism industry.

Levied. Hong Kong Government’s Environmental Protection Department is considering introducing a HKD1 (US$0.13) levy on all bottles of beverage alcohol to contribute to the cost of a new glass waste recycling programme. Hong Kong Food, Drink & Grocery Association chairman Michael Glover said that the association has been in talks with officials over the proposal for over two years. Glover also said that any levy should be split fairly among all producers rather than singling out the alcohol sector, and that the policy would not encourage glass recycling among consumers. 

Guyana’s National Assembly is considering legislation that would amend current environmental taxation laws to levy a GYD5 (US$0.03) tax on each unit of non-returnable containers for domestically-produced or imported non-alcohol or alcohol beverages. Violations of the proposed tax levy would incur penalties of a GYD5,000 fine, and importers found in violation would have to pay double the amount of tax payable.

Smuggled. In Zambia, Muchinga Deputy Permanent Secretary Jewis Chabi has requested that police and local officials increase their efforts to help reduce the smuggling of banned alcohol, including Tujilijili and Konyagi, into the country's Mpika district. Konyagi has an abv of 35% and is illegally sold in sachets for ZMK5,000 (US$0.97) each. Local government officials have also banned the sale of beer that is packaged in the same sachets as Tujilijili and Konyagi and smuggled into the district.

The UK Government is reportedly making use of previously-seized bootlegged alcohol by processing it through an anaerobic digestion process and extracting methane to generate electricity. The programme is part of efforts to meet government environmental targets and achieve a 16% reduction in waste in 2011/2012.

RFID. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will now be required on all whiskey sold in bars, nightclubs, and other nighttime venues in South Korea. Smartphones and credit card machines can scan the RFID tags to verify that the products are authentic. Venues without scanning equipment available will be penalised with a fine of KRW2m (US$1,882).

Authenticity is also of concern to Chinese wine consumers. In a survey of 1,000 people aged between 18 and 49, 44% of respondents said that the fear of buying counterfeit wine discouraged them from making a purchase, and that the concern ranked higher than the wine’s taste or sufficient information on the label. According to the survey, around 8m wine drinkers in China are concerned about purchasing counterfeit products.

Drafted. Czech Health Minister Leoš Heger is drafting legislation that would require restaurants to offer at least one non-alcoholic beverage that is priced cheaper than any available alcohol beverage. Heger’s draft legislation would reportedly also prohibit alcohol and tobacco product sales from vending machines and temporary retailers such as kiosks, and require larger retailers to display alcohol and tobacco separately from other goods. Heger said the legislation is part of wider efforts to reduce underage drinking and smoking.

While broadly limiting young people’s access to alcohol through legal purchase age limits can assist in reducing underage drinking, there has been increased emphasis in alcohol policy to measures that target specific drinking behaviours and minimise harm for groups at risk. Responsible service and on-premise measures, education programmes, as well as improving coping skills can be used in conjunction with other strategies to address underage drinking.

Ignored. Many Russian retailers have reportedly ignored a prohibition on the sale of beer from kiosks that came into effect on 1 January. The traders have attempted to circumvent the ban by offering beer as a promotional item with non-alcohol beverage items, only selling to regular customers, or simply asking customers to lie about the beer’s origin if questioned.

While Russia has restricted certain alcohol sales, alcohol availability is being expanded in Canada. The Ontario Government has announced a pilot programme that will make wine and spirits available for sale from ten Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) kiosks in selected grocery stores. Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said that most Ontarians were satisfied with the distribution of alcohol beverages through the LCBO, and the programme’s goal is to provide consumers with additional access to wine and spirits. This represents a further relaxation of alcohol monopoly laws in Canada, similar to measures applied in some Nordic countries as an effort to harmonise alcohol policies across the European Union.

Defined. The Polish Government has introduced legislation that defines Polish vodka as vodka produced exclusively on Polish territory from potatoes or cereals such as rye, wheat, barley, oats, or triticale. The measure is in response to a definition of vodka introduced by the European Parliament stating that the beverage can be distilled from any raw material of agricultural origin. An Association of Polish Vodka (PVA) spokesperson told the press that the new definition will help promote domestic and international Polish vodka sales, and also benefit the country's agriculture sector.

Farmers in Switzerland, however, are finding certain kinds of home-grown production constrained. Swiss lawmakers are considering proposed legislation that would impose a new tax on distilled spirits produced by farmers. Under the proposal, any farmer who does not want to pay the tax will be allowed to destroy the alcohol produced or make it undrinkable, and will have the opportunity to legalise any undeclared alcohol without punishment, as well as the option to sell the spirit produced to the Swiss Alcohol Board at market prices.

And finally,

Karaoke. Under a draft decree proposed by Vietnam's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, karaoke room patrons found consuming alcohol would be fined VND3m (US$145), a significant increase from current fine levels, which range between VND500,000 and VND1.5m. The measure would also increase fines for selling alcohol at karaoke venues, from between VND1m and VND3m to between VND3m and VND5m. If approved, the decree would go into effect on 1 July.

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.