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.

Paperless. In the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi municipal authorities are introducing a new electronic licensing system for alcohol purchases by non-Muslims. Existing paper licenses will be phased out, and applicants will be required to submit documents and collect licenses in person. Many retailers were reportedly informed of the change by customers, not by officials.

The National reports that some alcohol licensing offices process more than 100 applications a day. As Islam prohibits alcohol consumption, only non-Muslims are permitted to hold an alcohol license. Applicants must earn at least AED3,000 (US$820) a month, and how much they are allowed to legally spend on alcohol beverages depends on how much they earn. For example, someone earning AED10,000 a month can pay an annual license fee of AED100 and may spend AED500 a month.

Cycling limit. The Most-Híd party in Slovakia is expected to submit a legislative amendment that would permit cyclists to legally have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level greater than zero. A Most-Hid spokesperson said that the proposal is intended to add common sense to the law rather than to promote alcohol on the road.

The debate concerning zero tolerance BAC regulations continues in Russia with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently stating to the press that "Russia is not yet ripe to allow the use of even low alcohol behind the wheel". Generally speaking, medical experts and human rights advocates have raised concerns around imposing zero BAC limits on the basis that the human body can contain naturally occurring alcohol that is unrelated to beverage alcohol consumption.

Checked. In India, around 3,000 Kerala state police patrolling the 2012 Thrissur Pooram Festival used breathalysers to test people handling fireworks and mahouts riding elephants for alcohol intoxication. "It's been noted that almost all mahouts and firecracker workers report for work after consuming alcohol,” said a local police official. “Mahouts may hurt elephants if they aren't sober and chances of untoward incidents happening during fireworks display are high if workers drink too much alcohol.”

This is an example of interventions that can be used to reduce the potential for harm by selectively focusing on problematic drinking patterns that also reflect local culture and custom and are adapted to circumstances. Targeted interventions are a pragmatic approach to reducing risk because they specifically address harm where it occurs, can be tailored to address societal and cultural differences, do not require structural change or legislation, and by virtue of their specificity, avoid unintended outcomes and are responsive to the immediacy of  local-level needs.

GPS. Russian officials have proposed legislation that would require satellite navigation tracking of vehicles carrying beverages with 25% or more alcohol by volume (ABV). The proposal is part of efforts to deter the production and sale of illicit alcohol and would require alcohol transporters to disclose information such as routes, transport times, and parking locations.

It is estimated that at least 30% of alcohol consumed worldwide is unrecorded. In some regions, for example in parts of Africa or the Indian subcontinent, the amount may be more than 80%.  This includes local and traditional beverages, home-produced, illicit and counterfeit alcohol, as well as “surrogates” that include various alcohol-containing liquids. Yet this area of alcohol studies has been largely neglected in the research community, due in part to the difficulty in collecting data for a product that is largely illegal. Noncommercial is one of the areas of focus of Global Actions on Harmful Drinking.

Cellar door. New Zealand Winegrowers are calling for lower licensing fees for retail sales conducted at winery cellar doors, contending that such sales are “low-risk” and standard licenses could damage wine tourism. The Alcohol Law Reform Bill proposal currently under consideration requires winegrowers to obtain standard off-license permits to sell wine.  

We note that most countries that have age restrictions on who can buy alcohol and many also have restrictions on who can do the selling. Types of licenses can vary greatly. 

A license may simply permit the sale of alcohol or it may be extremely detailed . For example, what wineries in New Zealand are suggesting is not unlike the situation in Scotland, where there are different types of licenses depending on the type of sale and the environment. 

Dining in. The Swedish Government has introduced draft legislation that would allow alcohol to be served with meals for residents and their visitors in special accommodation for the elderly. Minister for Children & the Elderly Maria Larsson released a statement saying that the bill affirms the government’s respect for the choices of individuals.

Sweden joins other European countries, including Austria, Germany, and France, that already allow service of alcohol to elderly people living in nursing homes and care facilities.  Research studies show that moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial for cognitive function among older people and is linked to improved overall quality of life. For more information see the ICAP Issues Briefing on drinking and cognitive function and the report from a symposium on moderate drinking held in 2006.

Moderation. A new study suggests that regular moderate drinking can reduce the risk of developing nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NASH is the most extreme manifestation of liver cirrhosis that cannot be attributable to a particular cause, such as heavy drinking or hepatitis B and C.

The researchers analysed a cross sectional study of 600 liver biopsies of NAFLD patients, excluding heavy drinkers, binge drinkers, and non-drinking former drinkers. They found that moderate drinking significantly reduced the risk of developing NASH and fibrosis compared to non-drinkers. The researchers indicated that the risk reduction could be due to alcohol’s effects on “good” cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity. 

It’s electric. In the UK, 700 litres of illicit alcohol seized by police in Derby was taken to a plant owned by Severn Trent Water that will process the alcohol to generate methane and turn it into electricity. Trading standards officers found the alcohol to be contaminated and therefore too dangerous to be poured into the city's wastewater management system.

Illicit alcohol will be one of the topics addressed at the upcoming international conference Global Actions: Initiatives to Reduce Harmful Drinking. The event will report on the industry actions in support of the WHO Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol, and will also feature important discussions about commitments to further action in 2013 and beyond.

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.