Turkey has passed a raft of anti-alcohol laws

Turkey has passed a raft of anti-alcohol laws

As Turkish authorities kept watch over Taksim Square following a month of anti-government protests, the country's alcohol industry was bracing itself for its own crackdown.

This week both Diageo and Pernod Ricard voiced concern over new rules that include stricter bans on alcohol advertising, restrictions on where drinks are sold and consumed, and mandatory health warnings on packaging.

Pernod called the approach "heavy-handed", one that will do little to tackle misuse, and suggested the new law wouldn't pass scrutiny at the World Trade Organisation. Meanwhile, Diageo said it was disappointed over a lack of consultation but promised to work with the government to ensure the laws are "workable" and "effective". 

The restrictions were passed by Turkey's parliament last month, but it appears they have yet to be enacted. Nevertheless, their effect has already been felt - last month stocks in Turkish brewer Efes got “hammered” after the law was announced, according to Bloomberg, which said that bondholders were “crying into their beer”.

Diageo executives could not be blamed if they shed a few tears, too, as it is less than two years since the company paid US$2.1bn for Turkish spirits maker Mey Icki.

The crackdown has been laid at the door of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who leads the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party and has backed anti-alcohol measures in the past. He has defended the legislation, saying it will safeguard Turkey's young people from vice, while critics have accused him of imposing an Islamic agenda. "We don't want a generation walking around drunk night and day. We want a youth that is sharp and shrewd and full of knowledge," Erdogan said last month, according to the Huffington Post.

It seems, though, that Erdogan is something of a realist, as the new laws will not interfere with Turkey's important tourism industry as establishments with tourism certificates will be exempt, the Huffington Post added.

Retailers will not be so lucky. “I make most sales after 10pm, and I sell mostly beer and wine," shopowner Rafi Siropyan told the Guardian. "Our family has been running this shop for 40 years, but I am afraid that I might have to look into alternatives."

Erdogan has maintained, however, that he is not “banning” alcohol, and per capita consumption is already low in the mainly Muslim country. There was also some context in Foreign Policy, which asked: “Did Turkey just become a little more like Texas?” According to the magazine, some of Turkey's newly-adopted alcohol laws bear no small resemblance to those already in place in the Lone Star State.