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.

Archaic. The Maharashtra Excise Commissioner has proposed that the state abolish its drinking permits, contending that they “no longer meet contemporary requirements”. Officials called the drinking permit system - which requires a person to pay for a licence in order to purchase, possess, transport, or consume alcohol - “an archaic law,” and noted that Maharashtra is the only Indian state with the permit requirement.

Amsterdam officials, however, are looking to step up enforcement of old regulations. They have begun implementation of an alcohol strategy that includes a seldom-enforced 1964 ban making it illegal for business operators to “allow the presence of a person in an obvious state of intoxication” in their establishments. Any venue violating the ban is reportedly subject to a one-week licence suspension, a second offence carries a one-month suspension, and subsequent violations are punishable by business closure.

Ruling. A Polish court has reportedly disallowed charges against three men for consuming alcohol on a park bench on the grounds that the men were actually consuming denatured alcohol*. Consumption of alcohol in outdoor public places is prohibited, but the Prudniku District Court ruled that the law in question defines alcohol as “a product intended for consumption containing ethyl alcohol in excess of 0.5%”. As denatured alcohol is not considered a food item, its public consumption does not breach Polish law, the court said.

*denatured alcohol is ethanol that includes additives, such as methanol, intended to make it unfit for human consumption and is used in the chemical and cosmetics industry.

As part of efforts to crack down on surrogate alcohol consumption in Lithuania, the Seimas has voted in favour of legislative amendments prohibiting the sale of colognes, lotions, and other inexpensive beauty products from temporary retail structures such as kiosks. These untaxed items often contain up to 20% abv and are consumed so commonly as alcohol surrogates that they would have a market share of 7% if included in the beverage alcohol category. 

Wine. Winemakers in Tekirdag province have reportedly shifted production from wine to non-alcohol grape juice in the face of Turkey’s restrictive alcohol policies. An agricultural cooperative spokesperson said that the Turkish wine sector “has come to a dead-end” because of the imposition of a special tax on wine and broader restrictions on alcohol sales and marketing introduced in September, which prohibit advertising and restrict the times and places where alcohol can be sold.

Armenian wine production is expected to triple by 2020. Economic officials announced that, in the first six months of 2013, wine production had increased 42.4% to AMD2.4bn (US$5.9m), while exports had increased 56% compared with the same time frame in 2012 to AMD790m. Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States members, as well as Europe and the US, were identified as major importers of Armenian wine.

Interventions. ICAP hosted a three-day series of events earlier this month, to reduce drink-driving and harmful drinking in Colombia. Featuring international experts and stakeholders from across the country, the conference included a seminar for municipal officials on successful drink-driving interventions around the world and a hands-on training workshop for transit police designed to increase their capacity to reduce drink-driving. The activities coincided with the start of the second phase of Global Actions initiative Project Patrullero, developed to raise public awareness of the dangers of drink-driving and support effective action by police officials, transit authorities, and key stakeholders in several Colombian cities.

For additional insights into regional drink-driving issues and best practices for addressing them, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and ICAP have jointly published an e-book on alcohol and road safety, Regional Perspectives on Preventing Alcohol-Related Road Crashes Involving Vulnerable Road Users. The e-book features findings from road safety experts who have conducted work in Australia, the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Malaysia.

Traditional. In South Africa, proposed legislation is being considered by the Provincial Portfolio Committee on Economic Development that would introduce a formal licensing process for small-scale producers and vendors of traditional sorghum-based beer. Citing the use of substandard and potentially harmful components by some unlicensed brewers during beverage production, committee officials said the measure would help to regulate sales and let people know what they are drinking.

Some small retailers in Russia’s Omsk Oblast are reportedly circumventing the region’s new hours for alcohol sales. The Omsk Legislative Assembly recently met to discuss the issue of retailers “turning” their licences from retail to catering, which allows them to continue sales outside of the permitted hours of between the hours of 1000 and 2200. In response, lawmakers are proposing legislative amendments to better define the concepts “alcohol by the glass” and “alcohol to take away”.

Restriction. The Public Prosecutor of the State of São Paulo is calling for beer and wine advertisements to be covered by legislation restricting alcohol advertising, requesting that any beverages with an abv of 0.5% or greater have their advertising restricted. The Public Prosecutor asserts that the fact that the law currently only applies to beverages with an abv of 13% or greater contributes to harmful drinking behaviours among youth.

Lithuanian officials are also seeking to restrict alcohol advertisements. Minister of Health Vytenis Andriukaitis has drafted legislative amendments that would prohibit alcohol ads in all media other than television. The amendments would permit alcohol ads to be aired on television between the hours of 1100 and 0600. The proposals have been criticised by members of Andriukaitis’ own Social Democratic party as being an exercise in populism rather than a serious attempt to reduce harmful drinking. 

Driving. Figures released by the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) indicate that 620 of 3,936 road traffic crashes in India sampled over a five-year time frame involved intoxicated drivers, while approximately five in six crashes were not alcohol-related. Among drink driving-related crashes, 63 resulted in fatalities and 221 were designated as serious, compared with 371 fatalities and 942 serious crashes among those not involving an intoxicated driver.

Drink-driving among the elderly has reportedly increased by 20% since 2010, according to police forces in the UK. Officials have apprehended 232 drink drivers over 75 years old in 2012, and drivers over 50 years old accounted for 15% of UK drink-driving offenders. South-west England had the highest proportion of drink drivers over 75 years old.

Calories. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is considering whether wine, beer, and spirits manufacturers should be required to list caloric content on beverage product labels. In 2011, ministers responsible for food-labelling guidelines agreed to support in principle a recommendation to require alcohol labels to display calorie counts in the same manner as food product labels. FSANZ will conduct a concept analysis, review the effect the new labels would have on consumers, industry, and government, as well as how the proposed labels may impact retail and consumption patterns.

A survey of 1,000 dieters in Australia found that around 26% consumed one-quarter of their weekly caloric intake in alcohol beverages. The survey also found that 40% of respondents consumed 1,000 calories from alcohol on a single night out, with 50% reporting that drinking alcohol made them hungrier and 80% saying drinking reduced their willpower and they ate more junk food.

And finally,

“Cheater pints”. In the US, a bill introduced in the Michigan state legislature would make it illegal for on-premise licensees to “advertise or sell any glass of beer as a pint in this state unless the glass contains at least 16oz of beer”. Observers noted that some venues serve “cheater pints” in 12oz or 14oz glassware with thickened bottoms. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform.