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.

Mapping. Police in Cairns, Australia are using forensic mapping that plots correlations between entertainment venue locations and previous police presence to predict routes likely to be taken by drink-drivers seeking to avoid detection. The so-called “spider-webbing” approach has proved more effective than the district’s former practice of staffing highly visible check points.

Different approaches to reducing drink driving are also being recommended by officials in Estonia. Road administration adviser Villu Vane encouraged taxi and bus operators to voluntarily adopt installation of alcohol interlock devices in their vehicles. Vane also suggested their use as a penalty for repeat drink-driving offenders. The Estonian Government has yet to set out its position on the use of interlock devices.

Banned. In Tanzania, officials have directed the villagers of Ivuna Ward, largely composed of small-scale farmers, to abstain from consuming alcohol during conventional work hours. Engaging in sports, games, or other forms of entertainment until the evening was also prohibited in the by-law, and residents were reminded to comply or face legal consequences.

New restrictions on alcohol are also coming into effect in South Africa. Officials in Cape Town have approved a municipal by-law banning the purchase of alcohol from retail outlets on Sundays, effective from 1 April. Between Mondays and Saturdays, supermarkets and bottle stores must now suspend the sale of alcohol at 1800, and bars and clubs will discontinue alcohol service at 0200. The Gauteng Legislature is expected to consider a similar measure in the near future, which would ban both on-premise and off-premise alcohol purchases on Sundays.

Sales. Some Polish officials have voiced concerns about expanding alcohol sales in certain public spaces. The Lódz City Council is permitting alcohol sales at indoor and outdoor public swimming pools, which is reportedly causing controversy with the municipality’s lifeguards. A Water Voluntary Rescue Service spokesperson said intoxication is a major cause of drowning, and asked the council if the additional revenue generated would be allocated to employ more lifeguards.

In Australia, the Queensland Parliament is expected to consider a proposal to relax regulations on the sale of alcohol at events hosted by schools and social groups. Attorney General Jarrod Bleijie says current regulations, which require an AUD57 community liquor permit, a certified supervisor, and sometimes security staff, create unnecessary complications for “low-risk events”. Since March 2012, Queensland schools and Australian football clubs have submitted 387 applications for community liquor licenses, which Bleijie noted are rarely rejected.

Spirits. In the wake of 42 methanol poisoning deaths linked to illegally-produced and -sold spirits, spirits consumption in the Czech Republic may be down as much as 20%. Czech health officials continue to inspect thousands of spirits samples, and recently announced that they had detected dangerous levels of methanol or propanol in approximately one of every eight samples. In an interview, ICAP deputy president Dr. Marjana Martinic observed that the extent of the methanol poisoning problem in the country was unprecedented for the European Union, adding that the decline in Czech spirits consumption was likely temporary.

While there are concerns about Czech alcohol beverages, confidence in them has begun increasing in other countries. The Armenia Food Safety service has lifted a ban on the import of alcohol from the Czech Republic, which was enacted after last year's deaths from contaminated spirits led a number of neighbouring governments to suspend their importation.

Labeled. German brewer Oettinger has reportedly begun producing beer free from genetically modified ingredients. The brewery will be the first in the country to label its bottles “GM Free”, with the company saying that the change is a response to consumer demand for greater transparency and the increasing internationalisation of the commodity market.

Russian producers are likely to continue to use Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) such as “Champagne” and “Cognac” on labels and marketing, despite Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Federal beverage alcohol regulator Rosalkogolregulirovanie (PAP) has announced that Russian companies can use PGIs in their branding despite the legal protections afforded to them, as the words have no reference to their respective regions when translated into the Cyrillic alphabet. PAP reportedly does not dispute the legal status of these PGIs when spelled in the Latin alphabet. 

Sporting. In the US, administrators at the University of Texas are considering a new policy that would allow alcohol sales at the school’s baseball, basketball, and football games. Athletic director DeLoss Dodds told the press that “there's people telling me that it might be safer to serve it than not serve it”, and that any decision to allow alcohol sales would not be financially motivated. Approximately 20 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) colleges permit the sale of alcohol at sporting events.

Some New Zealand groups are voicing concerns about alcohol producers and sports sponsorships. The National Addiction Centre contends that alcohol sponsorship of sports teams or events maintains “the normalisation of alcohol” among viewers, including youth, and argues for a complete alcohol advertising ban in sports. Reportedly, the Law Commission has recommended “dismantling” alcohol marketing in New Zealand during the next five years.

Moderate. A new study suggests that low to moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the severity of symptoms and increase the quality of life in patients suffering from fibromyalgia. The researchers from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, surveyed alcohol consumption, physical symptoms, and quality of life in 946 patients with fibromyalgia. They found that patients with low to moderate alcohol consumption reported better scores on quality of life, physical functioning, ability to work, fatigue, and pain, than abstinent patients.

Moderate drinkers who consume alcohol more frequently, including daily drinkers, have lower risks for many diseases than those whose drinking is less frequent. The relationship appears especially robust if drinking accompanies meals. For moderate drinkers, a decrease in risk has also been described for several conditions, including coronary heart and other cardiovascular disease, as well as Type II diabetes.

Curtains. The Utah State Legislature has decided to keep in effect the “Zion curtains” regulation, which bans restaurant employees from pouring alcohol in front of customers, and requires drink mixing areas to be screened off from customers. The ban was originally instituted to reduce consumption and prevent under-age youth from seeing alcohol beverages poured or the mixing of cocktails by bartending staff.

Russian officials are also looking for ways to keep alcohol under wraps. Udmurtia State Council is considering draft legislation that would require all retail purchases of distilled spirits to be wrapped in plain paper bags. Health officials said that the policy is modeled on a European model of “de-personalising” alcohol beverages at the point of sale, and thereby preventing under-age youth from exposure to alcohol branding.

And finally,

Mourning. Venezuela’s Ministry of Popular Power for Interior Relations and Justice reportedly prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol during the official period of mourning for recently-deceased President Hugo Chávez. The Ministry’s resolution was effective through March 12, and was to be enforced by public safety officials.

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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