Responsible drinking issues around the world - The IARD Digest - June 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

  • Global -  Illicit alcohol consumption in Africa, Latin America more than double previous estimate

A report from the IARD has found that illicit alcohol consumption is more than double the WHO's previous estimates in some countries. Citing data from Euromonitor International, 'Alcohol in the Shadow Economy' notes that at least 61% of total alcohol consumed in Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, Malawi and Mozambique is illicit. Unrecorded alcohol is also widespread across Asia and in parts of Europe.

Tests have shown that methanol, mortuary formaldehyde and battery acid have been used in the production of unregulated alcohol in some countries. In April, 141 people in Indonesia died from organ failure after drinking oplosan that had been produced with mosquito repellent.

The combined fiscal loss to governments in the 18 countries included in the report is in the region of US$1.8bn per year.

IARD CEO Henry Ashworth said that it "requires a collaborative and united response from public, private, and not-for-profit sectors" to deal with illicit alcohol consumption. "These partnerships can only thrive when there is a broad and regulated private sector able to play its role in improving health and tackling harmful drinking".

  • Belgium - Health Minister rejects call to reduce recommended consumption limit

The Federal Public Service for Public Health, Food Chain Safety & Environment's Superior Health Council has published a proposal to reduce the current guidelines limit of 21 units per week for men and 14 for women to 10 units for all consumers.

Minister of Social Affairs & Health Maggie De Block subsequently rejected the proposal, cautioning that the reduction and other proposals would "also affect people who behave responsibly in relation to alcohol". Prohibiting for the sake of prohibiting "is not the solution", said De Block. "We must first and foremost tackle problematic consumption … [as] all people who buy a bottle of wine or a beer in a night-shop are not problem drinkers, nor future alcoholics… What really matters here is the choice between a witch hunt and believing in people's responsibility."

The minister concluded that the Government has to be "very cautious with additional restrictive measures".

"Maybe they have a good intention, but they often miss their objective, and foreign examples do not necessarily show that tighter rules lead to less alcohol abuse". 

  • Finland - Relaxation of alcohol availability fears fail to materialise - yet

Late last year, Finland's authorities passed amendments to the country's national alcohol policy, allowing the sale of alcohol with an abv as high as 5.5% from retailers outside the state alcohol retail monopoly Alko. The maximum permissible abv for regular retailers had previously been 4.7%.

Subsequently, the National Institute for Health & Welfare (THL) warned at the time that alcohol sales would rise by around 4% in 2018 if restrictions were eased. The claim provoked accusations at the time of scaremongering.

In the first quarter of this year, however, alcohol sales actually decreased by 0.9%, according to the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare & Health. In terms of pure alcohol volume, sales inched up by 0.7% in the three months.

THL senior researcher Thomas Karlsson has rejected suggestions that the health agency had exaggerated the effects of easing restrictions, saying that it was too early to accurately gauge the bill's effects of the legislative change. Karlsson suggested that consumption might still increase with a warm summer, saying also that the agency had "never said that queues would be long in the grocery store or that people would die in the street".

  • Global - Uber criticised for alleged plans to detect - and refuse service to - intoxicated passengers

The ridesharing service Uber has lodged an application in the US to patent machine-learning technology that could analyse the current mental and physical state of users through their smartphones. The tech would gauge unusual spelling mistakes, the way the smartphone is being held, users' walking speed and location and the time of day.

Uber's software would compare this information against user data harvested at other times, and its application makes reference to previous "safety incidents" in which passengers had behaved "uncharacteristically".

Critics have expressed concern that refusing to carry intoxicated passengers could encourage drink-driving, and that the technology could also inadvertently recognise persons with a physical disability as intoxicated.

  • Czech - Government rejects bill to abolish ban on alcohol consumption while boating, as Senate approves alcohol for cyclists

The Czech cabinet recently rejected a Czech Pirate Party bill to abolish an "ineffective" ban on alcohol consumption while boating, which had the support of 50 deputies from every political party other than the CSSD. The Pirate Party claimed that 80% of the nation's boaters consume alcohol on the water.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has since announced that the Government will draft its own bill to ease the BAC limit for boating, as well as for cyclists and skiers. Babiš contradicted Minister of Transport Dan Tok's original response that he would maintain the Government's zero-tolerance policy on boating and all other forms of transport.

Babiš commented that the Government does "not think that [total] freedom should be allowed, but we understand that these people have a reasonable taste for beer, so we want to make an amendment".

The Senate passed a separate bill last month that would remove the zero BAC limit that is in place for cyclists. The bill is now being reviewed by a parliamentary committee.

  • The UK - Heineken's latest drink-driving prevention pilot sees 50% reduction in drink-driving outcomes

A recently-introduced on-premise programme by Heineken uses a range of interventions to reduce drink-driving by encouraging drivers to consider and change their behaviour around alcohol consumption. The pilot uses signs, special menus aimed at drivers and an emphasis on alcohol-free drinks.

Heineken conducted the pilot study in ten bars in Greater Manchester and Reading between 23 and 25 May. A total of 700 people were interviewed about their intended driving behaviour as they left the bars.

The pilot is part of Heineken's ongoing "When you drink, never drive" campaign. The brewer has also launched new videos showing Formula One champions David Coulthard, Jackie Stewart, and Nico Rosberg taking a "designated drivers' pledge" to stay sober when driving.

  • Belgium - Summer BOB campaign uses mobile checkpoints to thwart social media users

The Belgian Brewers trade association and road safety NGO the Vias Institute recently launched their latest collaborative 'BOB' seasonal drink-driving prevention campaign, which began with a four-day "Weekend Without Drink-Driving" initiative of nation-wide police checks on drivers.

BOB is derived from the Dutch phrase "Bewust Onbeschonken Bestuurder" - 'deliberately sober driver' in English.

Belgium's police are making greater use of mobile checkpoints for this latest iteration of the long-running campaign. "In the social media era, the police have to move around more often than before to carry out effective checks," said Minister of the Interior Jan Jambon.

Officers apprehended 57 drink-driving offenders in the Luxembourg region during the weekend campaign, where 1,934 drivers were breath tested.

The institute has also released a study indicating that during the 2016 UEFA European Championship, road traffic crashes rose by 80% after matches featuring the national team.

The 'BOB' campaign was launched in 1992, with 17 countries going on to run similar concepts.

  • Kenya - New ethical code of alcohol advertising launched

The Alcohol Beverages Association of Kenya (ABAK) has published a new code of conduct aimed at reducing alcohol-related road traffic crashes, underage drinking and the sale of unrecorded alcohol.

"We want to drive communication that discourages minors from taking up alcohol and drink-driving," said an ABAK spokesperson. "What we are trying to do is to ensure that we communicate how to package information meant for consumers in a manner that does not promote the misuse of alcohol." The code is intended to complement existing regulations and legislation.

The Pubs, Entertainment & Restaurants Association of Kenya has expressed its support for the new code, stating that it would address the negative perception of the alcohol industry in the country.

  • Nigeria - Alcohol industry campaigns against underage drinking and drink-driving

Guinness Nigeria is launching a new education campaign to prevent underage drinking in the country, which will aim to reach 5m 13- to 17-year-olds by 2022. The theatre programme, titled 'Smashed', will be implemented in 28 state and private schools across Lagos State.

"We are committed to Nigeria and to the development of our youth population," said a spokesperson for the company. "We will continue to do our best to ensure that the young people of our country not only reach their full potential but also lead rich meaningful lives."

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria's Beer Sectoral Group (BSG) has also launched the third iteration of a major prevention campaign, titled 'Drive Alcohol-Free'. The campaign will primarily target professional drivers, motorcycle riders, private drivers and young drivers.

The BSG is made up of leading brewers including Nigerian Breweries, Guinness Nigeria and International Breweries. The campaign is part of efforts to encourage behavioural change among Nigerian consumers who have yet to adopt a responsible attitude.

  • Australia - Victoria traffic police faked up to 1m breath tests over five years

Police in the Australian province of Victoria have announced that an internal investigation has uncovered 258,463 falsified roadside breath tests over a five-year period. The investigation was launched following reports that officers performing tests had been deliberately misusing testing devices.

Officers in rural areas were reportedly responsible for the bulk of the fake tests, which were carried out by placing a finger over a device's breath straw entry hole, or by officers blowing into the straw themselves.

While investigators found that 1.5% of more than 17.7m tests had been falsified, the Herald Sun reported shortly afterwards that the actual number could be closer to 1m, as the police force had no information on the actual number of single-use straws that had been distributed to officers.

A police spokesperson speculated that officers had wanted "to hide or highlight productivity", noting that "as disappointing as this is, it should be noted that, at this stage in the investigation, there is no evidence to suggest fraud or any criminality has occurred. Similarly, there is nothing to suggest that any of this activity has impacted on any prosecutions."

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