Every month, the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking looks at responsible drinking measures around the world

Every month, the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking looks at responsible drinking measures around the world

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.

  • Germany - Court rules against "wholesome" beer

Germany's Court of Justice of the Oberlandesgericht has ruled that breweries in the country cannot advertise their products as "wholesome", because it associates beer consumption with health. The Association of Social Competition (VSW) brought legal action on the grounds that such claims breach the EU's "Health Claims" regulation. The VSW argued that Härle's use of the word "wholesome" in the marketing of three of its beers was a health claim, citing a 2012 European Court of Justice ruling against the use of "wholesome," "low acidity," and "mild edition" in wine marketing because the terms did not disclose any of the health risks associated with beverage alcohol consumption. A Härle spokesperson left open the possibility of appealing the decision before the Federal Court and expressed disappointment in the court's decision, stating that the term "wholesome" has been in use since 1902 to mean "well-being."

  • Kazakhstan - Government considering late-night alcohol advertisements

Kazakhstan's Ministry of Information & Communications has reportedly drafted legislative amendments that would allow for late-night television and radio advertisements for beer and wine. CA-News reports that a ministry working group is currently discussing the amendments to the laws "on mass media" and "on advertising", to allow for the placement of broadcast ads between 2200. and 0700. The amendments would allow for print ads in publications other than children's and religious, although ads would not be permitted on the covers or first and last pages of newspapers and magazines. The Ministry's amendments would also introduce content restrictions prohibiting health claims, the use of women, children, or animated characters, ads targeting youth, and ads encouraging excessive consumption, and would require a health-warning message of at least 10% of the advertising space.

  • Australia - Health advocates and alcohol producers clash over safe drinking review

The Federal Government of Australia is currently conducting its quinquennial review of responsible beverage alcohol consumption guidelines, and the appointed National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Working Committee has attracted some criticism for disproportionate representation from temperance organisations. The Government introduced its controversial guidelines in 2009, reducing the recommended daily limit for men from 28 to 14 units of alcohol per week. Many public health advocates have conceded that the general public largely ignores the current guidelines, as they are "considered unrealistic (too low) and confusing". The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the committee includes members with links to the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE) and IOGT-NTO. Alcohol Beverages Australia executive director Fergus Taylor said that the new guidelines would "have to be evidence-based and believable to be trusted", asserting that "anti-alcohol activists" had "derailed" the process in 2009 by pushing "unrealistic guidelines that have been widely ridiculed and ignored". A NHMRC spokesperson said that all committee members were subject to conflict disclosure requirements, and that "the draft revised guidelines will be subject to independent review to ensure the process by which the underpinning evidence has been interpreted and synthesised is appropriate, and in accordance with the latest knowledge on the topic of interest".

  • Belgium - Health Minister defends alcohol policy stance

Belgium Public Health Minister Maggie De Block has issued a public response to the Christian Democratic & Flemish (CD&V) party's criticism of her decision not to restrict beverage alcohol sales in gas stations and convenience stores. De Block originally stated that she did not intend to impose hours-of-sale restrictions on small retailers, as she did "not want to see more bankruptcies". A CD&V spokesperson stated that the decision was "a slap in the face to more than a million citizens who struggle with some form of alcohol dependency", contending that the Government should adopt an "integrated approach … focusing on prevention and control, but also limiting supply". De Block argued that the introduction of measures that were too general would also punish responsible consumers, stating that faced with harmful drinking, the Government "must make a choice between general measures affecting everyone and targeted work".

  • Iraq - President asks parliament not to ban alcohol

President of Iraq Fuad Masum has called for recently-passed legislation that will prohibit the sale, import or production of beverage alcohol to be revised. The Independent reports that the regulations prohibiting alcohol were unexpectedly added to a municipalities bill that was recently passed by the Council of Representatives, and that offenders would face penalties ranging from IQD10m (US$8,700) to IQD25m. Critics have labelled the legislation an infringement on the rights of Christians and other minority groups, and questioned the ethics of the manner of its introduction, considering that lawmakers are currently focused on the nation's internationally-supported joint military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the city of Mosul. Several representatives have expressed their intention to draft new bills to repeal the ban and, while Masum did not use the word "alcohol" in his statement, he criticised the "surreptitious" way in which the article had been included as inconsistent with "democratic legal principles" and called for it to be amended.

  • Chile - SENDA wants to eliminate happy hours

The National Service for the Prevention & Rehabilitation of Drug and Alcohol Use (SENDA) in Chile has drafted a new prevention plan that would prohibit happy hour, open bar, and other price promotions for alcohol beverages. SENDA director Mariano Montenegro asserted that price promotions encourage patrons to consume more alcohol, leading to health problems that the Government and public health officials would have to address. Montenegro refuted criticisms that the draft regulations would restrict individual freedoms by saying that people who seek government-funded treatment after engaging in harmful drinking cannot afford to think only of themselves when their behaviour has such a significant social impact. SENDA's 60-point plan is intended to reduce the country's harmful drinking and alcohol dependency rates in accordance with WHO guidelines, suggesting that lawmakers establish a minimum price for alcohol and introduce alcohol advertising restrictions by 2020 to prevent ads targeting underage youth.

  • UK - Half of Scotland's alcohol doesn't meet new minimum unit price requirements

BBC News reports that approximately 69% of distilled spirits currently on sale in Scotland are priced below the threshold of an impending GBP0.50 (US$0.63) minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol beverages. Marketing research firm Nielsen assessed sales from 1,200 stores in the country and found that 67% of beers and 51% of ciders were priced below the GBP0.50 MUP, compared with 3.4% of wines, and that the average prices of blended whisky and vodka would need to be increased by 20% and 16.3%, respectively, to meet the MUP threshold. A Nielson spokesperson stated that "wine is, by far, the least impacted and so has the most to gain from minimum pricing", adding that there could be an increase in cross-border shopping between Scotland and England and Ireland, where prices for alcohol would be cheaper, "mirroring what many Britons already do with the annual Calais run". The Scottish Government has stated that it will introduce the MUP "as soon as possible" after the Court of Session recently rejected a Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) legal challenge against legislation introducing MUP that was passed in 2012.

  • India - Whisky packs remain clandestine during prohibition

Distilled spirit producers have reportedly started to distribute well-known spirits brands packed in 18cl cartons in Bihar, India, in an attempt to circumvent the state Government's controversial prohibition on the sale and consumption of beverage alcohol. According to Hindustan Times, the compact size of the packs make it more difficult for Bihar State Police, excise agencies, or other law enforcement agencies' officers to detect compared to glass bottles. They are also easier for consumers to carry,  with sources revealing that the beverages have been entering Bihar by rail and road from West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh. State excise and police sources have stated that they have no information about the beverages or their sale in Bihar.

  • Thailand - Government orders year-long prohibition to mourn monarch

The Royal Thai Government (RTG) has imposed a 30-day restriction on the consumption of alcohol beverages in public places, as part of a call to citizens to avoid "joyful events" following the recent death of the world's longest reigning monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Bloomberg has reported that the restriction on alcohol - along with a Government-imposed one-year national mourning period - risks negatively impacting the country's popular tourist destinations such as Bangkok and Phuket, and international airlines operating in the region have predicted a dip in travel during this time.

  • Ireland - Alcohol Bill scrutinised by incumbent party

Ireland's Department of Health is reportedly considering amendments to the Government's controversial draft national alcohol policy following strong criticism of the bill from within the incumbent Fine Gael party. The Irish Times reports that lawmakers' criticisms of the draft Public Health (Alcohol) Bill largely centred around a requirement for retailers to display alcohol in an area that is separated structurally from the rest of their premises by a physical barrier with a door, which critics have asserted would be an "onerous burden" on small retailers. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has called for "common sense" over this aspect of the bill, which would also introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP), more stringent advertising restrictions, and mandatory health warning labelling. Kenny's comments have reportedly been taken as a direct call for ministers to engage with their parliamentary colleagues to reach a compromise over problematic clauses. Department of Health officials are considering a variety of options including allowing retailers a longer time frame in which to make the change, taking the size of business premises into account as a mitigating factor, and only applying the concealment rules to certain alcohol beverages. The department had previously suggested that retailers might conceal alcohol products with a fabric curtain.

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