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Responsible drinking issues around the world - The IARD Digest - January 2018

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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 more responsible role for alcohol in society.

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

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

  • The US - Governor Chris Christie signs legislation prohibiting 'drink-droning' in New Jersey

Legislation passed in New Jersey now makes it illegal for persons to operate unmanned drones if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.8 mg/ml or higher. The set level is equal to the BAC limit for driving in the state.

Offenders will be liable for a six-month custodial sentence or a US$1,000 fine. Recent reports claim that lawmakers in 38 other states are considering similar proposals.

  • The US - Lyft partners with Baderbrau Brewing to launch beer branded with discount code for ride home

Chicago craft brewer Baderbrau Brewing and ride-hailing service Lyft have teamed up to launch a beer in the US state. Five Stars is named after the rating system on Lyft's smartphone app. Available only in bars, the beer carries a discount code for Lyft. The companies hope the promotion will reach consumers at the end of the night and encourage them to take a discounted ride home rather than drink-driving.

Lyft also runs a 'safe ride' programme with Anheuser-Busch InBev that has offered up to 150,000 return trips in ten states during weekends and holidays for the last two years.

  • Lithuania - President criticises "shameful" censorship of imported magazines with alcohol ads

The Ministry of Health's recent controversial amendments to the Alcohol Control Act in Lithuania introduced a range of new availability restrictions at the beginning of 2018, including a total ban on alcohol advertising. The advertising ban has had one major unforeseen consequence, however, as importers of foreign magazines and publications have been forced to either tear out pages bearing alcohol ads, or place stickers over the ads so that they are not visible.

The country's president, Dalia Grybauskaite, commented that the ensuing censorship "brings back the Middle Ages and causes immense damage to our international reputation".

  • France - Government's Inter-departmental Committee on Road Safety announces new 18-part road safety plan

Under a recently-introduced programme in France, drink-driving offenders will be required to install alcohol interlock devices in their vehicles to prevent repeat offences.

The country's Committee on Road Safety has reportedly withdrawn a contentious proposal to require all drivers to carry a portable breath-testing device, as the feasibility and effectiveness of the measure were not proven. Retailers will be encouraged to sell the portable devices, however, and to display them in their stores near to where alcohol is located.

Serious road traffic offenders, including drink-drivers, will be liable for immediate vehicle impoundment when apprehended.

  • Belarus - Government seeks public opinion on draft national alcohol policy

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched a public consultation on its draft national alcohol policy, using an online voting system for people to register their opinions on the various measures under consideration. The ministry's online survey asks participants whether beverage alcohol sales should be prohibited either between the hours of 2200 and 0900 or between 2300 and 0900, or not time-restricted at all.

Participants have the opportunity to vote on whether the sale of alcohol at gas stations should be prohibited, and if the minimum drinking age of 18 years old should be increased to either 20 or 21 years old.

Critics have contended that restricting availability to reduce consumption could push alcohol-dependent people to consume unrecorded alcohol or surrogate alcohol.

  • South Korea - Government will incorporate virtual reality technology to treat defendants committing offences while intoxicated

Ministry of Justice officials in South Korea have announced that 5,000 of the country's 20,000 alcohol-dependent offenders currently serving probation will be entered into a VR programme. The offenders will attend virtual lectures on drink-driving, practice refusing alcohol beverages when offered, and learn to cope with stressful situations.

  • Sri Lanka - Supreme Court receives petitions against government reinstating prohibition of women purchasing alcohol beverages

Sri Lankan Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera recently provoked a strong backlash when he announced that the decades-long ban on women purchasing alcohol would be withdrawn "to restore gender neutrality". The proclamation was followed days later by President Maithripala Sirisena announcing the immediate withdrawal of the withdrawal.

Several women, including popular celebrities, have since filed petitions with the court to challenge the decision, describing the prohibition as draconian, arbitrary, irrational, unreasonable, and also discriminatory to female citizens.

Xinhua reports that the Ministry of Finance had also issued legislation to increase the hours of service for alcohol, which has also since been rescinded.

  • Sweden: Skåne set to allow alcohol sales outside of state alcohol retail monopoly Systembolaget

Skåne Regional Council is piloting a Liberals Party initiative that will allow for alcohol sales from farm shops, with the intention of illustrating that farm sales would not threaten Systembolaget's nationwide monopoly on off-premise alcohol sales. Systembolaget has lobbied extensively against the proposal, asserting through a nation-wide campaign and other channels that it would threaten public health.

The monopoly has also argued that the policy would threaten the EU exception that allows for a state retail monopoly, although Norway and Finland both operate similar state alcohol monopolies while allowing limited sales from farms and grocery stores, respectively.

The Liberals argue that allowing farm sales would not threaten the monopoly's position or public health. Farm sales do not constitute the "fast and cheap access to alcohol" that could impact public health, a spokesperson said, given that farms' shops are usually only open for limited hours and their beverages tend to be expensive.

Liberal members of Sweden's Riksdag claim that farm sales would benefit the tourism sector, create jobs, and boost small-scale alcohol production, asserting that prohibiting farm sales is like prohibiting people from living in rural areas.


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