Once a month, the drinks industry-funded International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, which covers alcohol policies worldwide, looks at what's going on in-market to promote a responsible role for alcohol in society.

  • European Union – EU to implement "alcolocks" to cut alcohol-related fatalities

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has called on EU member states to implement the use of alcohol interlock devices in public and commercial vehicles to reduce alcohol-related road traffic crash fatalities. The CoR made the recommendation in a recent draft report calling for the introduction of a new EU Alcohol Strategy to reduce social, medical, and economic issues associated with harmful drinking, advising that governments should encourage the use of interlocks to "bring down the number of deaths on Europe's roads". Around 7,000 traffic deaths across continental Europe are attributed to drink-driving every year, and the UK's Department for Transport estimates that 14% of the country's total traffic fatalities are caused by drink-driving. The Independent speculates that the UK will nevertheless be exempt from any EU implementation as a result of the country's pending withdrawal from the EU. The Council of the EU will shortly discuss the proposed measure along with other road safety strategies at a conference in Malta.

  • Russia – Glassware manufacturers will be responsible for illicit alcohol

Federation Council Senators in Russia have reportedly drafted legislation that would introduce legal responsibility for manufacturers of glass bottles that supply unrecorded alcohol producers or counterfeiters with bottles. Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Budget & Financial Markets, Sergey Riabukhin, stated that such businesses would be liable for a RUB2m (US$33,850) fine under the Code of Administrative Offences, while the owners of businesses would be liable for a custodial sentence of up to two years. Riabukhin asserted that importing bottles was not financially viable for unrecorded producers, and that the country's 11 major glass bottle producers could be obliged to place an identifying stamp on their bottles to enable them to be easily traced. While a Ministry of Industry & Trade spokesperson confirmed that the ministry is ready to approve the bill, representatives of the glass-producing sector have noted that it is already difficult to manufacture excess quantities of trademarked bottles when working to a contract, and asserted that it is not clear how manufacturers would be able to track the use of generic bottles, as there is no way to know what use a buyer would put bottles to after their initial sale.

  • US - Chain restaurants to display beers' nutritional information

Chain restaurants in the US will be required to provide calorie and nutritional labelling for alcohol beverages from May, under a new Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulation. Men's Journal reports that the requirements will apply to all food and beverages purchased in chain restaurants, at drive-through windows, and other venues where food and drinks can be purchased and consumed "on the premises, while walking away, or soon after arriving at another location". An FDA spokesperson confirmed that the new requirements will apply to alcohol beverages if they are "a standard menu item that is listed on a menu or a menu board", and that venues may present calorie information in ranges for beer and wine.

  • Poland – Calorie info on alcohol beverage labels may be required

The Law & Justice party (PiS) is drafting legislation that would require calorie information labelling on beverage alcohol packaging, on the grounds that this would reduce general consumption in Poland. State Agency for the Prevention of Alcohol-Related Problems (PARPA) director Krzysztof Brzózka commented that beer has a higher calorie content than some popular soft drinks, speculating that female consumers, in particular, might drink less if they were aware of alcohol's nutritional value,. He also noted that alcohol is the only food or beverage product on the market that is not required to provide nutritional information. The PiS parliamentary group is currently consulting on amending the 'Act on Education in Sobriety' national policy to introduce the calorie-labelling requirement, which prevention experts have asserted "might work for some people as part of a package of preventive measures".

  • Lithuania – Government considering specialised alcohol stores

Lithuanian Minister of Health Aurelijus Veryga recently met with alcohol producers and other stakeholders to discuss the new Government's draft national alcohol policy and its plans to reduce harmful drinking in the country. A key element of the policy is the introduction of specialised alcohol stores. Lithuanian Business Confederation president Valdas Sutkus has asserted that stakeholders will seek a clearer explanation of the Government's "ambitious plan to reduce alcohol consumption in half", but Veryga said that while changes could take place in 2018, how they will be implemented is still under discussion. The CEO of the Association of Lithuanian Trade Enterprises, Laurynas Vilimas, estimates that specialised alcohol shops could cost existing businesses hundreds of millions of euros, and also result in a EUR50m (US$53.2m) revenue loss for the state budget.

  • Russia – Ministry may create database of "sober addresses"

The Ministry of Economic Development is reportedly considering the creation of a database of addresses and localities that would not be permitted to take delivery of alcohol purchased online. Izvestia reports that the initiative would form part of draft legislation that would allow for online alcohol sales and would accommodate a legal restriction on alcohol sales in children's, educational, and medical institutions, sports facilities, and other availability-restricted sites. The bill was discussed at a recent meeting of the ministry's working group to improve the effectiveness of regulation and competition in the alcohol market. A National Association of Distance Selling spokesperson said that the only difficulty the registry could potentially face would be persons writing postal addresses in a different form to that entered into a database. The spokesperson also said the online market was likely to be limited to sales of more expensive beverages rather than sales of vodka, for example.

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina – Drivers who consume alcohol after crash could face jail time

Parliament has published an emergency ordinance stating that drivers who consume alcohol or drugs between a road traffic crash and a subsequent blood sample collection will be liable for a custodial sentence, effective from 11 February. Drivers found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level greater than the legal limit of 0.8 mg/ml, or who had consumed drugs after causing a crash, will be liable for penalties identical to the one-to-five-year custodial sentence faced by drink-driving offenders under the amended 'Criminal Code'. Drivers who have had drugs administered by authorised medical personnel after a crash, meanwhile, will not be liable under the code, as this would affect the result of a blood test.

  • Thailand – Prime Minister tells public not to brew beer at home or in toilets

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha has called on the Thai public to better adhere to the country's regulations regarding domestic beverage alcohol production. In a Government House press conference, Prayut said: "You can't just brew it … in your toilet." Prayut stated that alcohol can only be produced in factory or brew-pub facilities since the passage of the 1950 Liquor Act, which was passed to better guarantee consumer safety and hygiene. In 2000, the Ministry of Finance introduced a regulatory statute stating that legitimate alcohol producers must be a limited company with a minimum of THB10m in capital and with more than 100,000 litres in annual production. Prayut added that the regulations exist because "there used to be a lot of moonshine" in the country, and questioned the ability of small independent producers to regulate the quality and abv levels of their beverages, as well as maintaining sanitary production facilities.

  • Sweden – Alcohol monopoly says online retailer is selling illegally

State-operated alcohol retail monopoly Systembolaget has asserted that online retailer Mathem is acting illegally by permitting its customers to purchase wine with food orders, through a system of routing the alcohol portion of the sale through Danish retailer Wine Finder. A Systembolaget spokesperson told Breakit that the monopoly's "assessment is that Mathem and Wine Finder's arrangement is illegal", adding that it was up to the Customs Administration, Tax Agency, and the police to prosecute the retailers. A Wine Finder spokesperson expressed surprise at Systembolaget's claims, contending that the company observed the law, paid tax, and is audited by the Tax Agency. "Wine Finder's sales are from Denmark, which means that Systembolaget are wrong when they claim that we violate the prohibition of selling alcoholic beverages without a license," the spokesperson said. "The ban is a matter of selling from Sweden." Breakit reports that the European Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that the country was required to change its licensing laws and open up the alcohol market that was dominated by Systembolaget. The ruling created a loophole for home-delivery services such as Mathem to deliver imported alcohol from neighbouring countries.

  • Australia – State Attorney-General negates government "bought" by producers

The Queensland (QLD) Government has revealed plans to repeal controversial legislation that would have imposed stricter beverage alcohol regulations, shortly before it was due to take effect. The legislation would have required licensed premises to refuse to admit or readmit patrons after 0100 a.m. Attorney General of Queensland Yvette D'Ath said the State Government was withdrawing the so-called "lock-out laws" to allow time to evaluate other previously- introduced control measures such as earlier last order times and compulsory age verifying identification scanners at venues. D'Ath also rejected assertions made by the chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education, Michael Thorn, that the decision was motivated by a decrease of political donations from alcohol producers since the high-profile legislation was passed. Thorn's comments were "quite offensive and extraordinary," D'Ath said. He "is someone who's extremely passionate about seeing the Government and parliament take action against our culture of violence, as we all are …but I am not aware of any Member of Parliament who's made statements along these lines or any claims around donations." ABC News reports that the Government will move to repeal the legislation at the next sitting of the State Parliament, adding that it is not yet clear whether the lock-out regulations will be reintroduced following the evaluation of other measures.

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