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

  • Germany - Bavarian brewery workers consuming less of their monthly beer subsidy

Employees at breweries in the German state of Bavaria are traditionally allowed up to 18 litres of free beer as part of their monthly salary package. Statistics released by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), however, show that workers' total beer consumption declined in 2017 by 5.7% to 56,088 hectolitres.

Federal Government Drug Commissioner Marlene Mortler criticised the practice of offering beer as part of a workers' wages last year: "I'm sure alcohol will not be part of the payroll in ten years from now," she was quoted saying.

Many of the state's brewers have already made changes to the scheme, offering employees the choice of taking non-alcohol beverages instead of beer. This is likely to be a contributing factor to the decline, given that Destatis does not include data on non-alcohol substitutes in its figures.

  • Ireland - Alcohol bill will impact imports of popular foreign magazines - Trade association

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) has criticised the Government's contentious draft alcohol policy, cautioning that a requirement for evidence-based cancer warnings on all alcohol advertising could unexpectedly act as a trade barrier.

"The drinks industry … supports the overall objectives of the Alcohol Bill to tackle harmful and underage drinking in Ireland," said ABFI director Patricia Callan, adding that  "reasonable" amendments should be made as "some of the advertising and labelling provisions are not proportionate and will represent a barrier to trade in the EU."

The European Commission also recently found fault with the cancer warning proposal, stating that a magazine with Europe-wide distribution would need to be reprinted in a special edition especially for Ireland if it contained a single alcohol advertisement.

Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland chair Professor Frank Murray countered that claims, saying the additional costs would not be significant as it would be "well within [publishers'] reaches … to develop magazines that will be suitable for the Irish market".

"it's yet another issue where the alcohol industry is alarming people unnecessarily, Murray added."

A similar restriction on alcohol advertising in Lithuania, introduced at the beginning of this year, inadvertently forcing foreign print media importers to either place stickers over alcohol ads or remove entire pages of magazines. President Dalia Grybauskaite criticised the "shameful" censorship, commenting that the situation "brings back the Middle Ages and causes immense damage to our international reputation." The country's Government has since amended the legislation. 

  • Czech - Senate passes bill removing zero BAC limit for cyclists

Amendments to the Road Traffic Act in Czech would introduce a new BAC limit of 0.5 mg/ml for cyclists, as well as lowering the fine for intoxicated cyclists from CZK20,000 (US$910) to CZK500.

While critics of the proposal have argued that intoxicated cyclists on cycle paths would pose a danger to others, advocates said it would encourage people to use the rural paths to visit vineyards and wine cellars, encouraging the domestic wine tourism industry.

A parliamentary committee will review the bill before it passes to the Chamber of Deputies, which rejected a similar bill from the senate two years ago.

  • Turkey - Alcohol retailers hold one-day strike in protest against restrictions

Members of the Turkish Off-Licence Vendors' Platform trade association closed their stores for a day on 26 April, in protest against a 2013 ban on the sale of alcohol between the hours of 1000 and 0600.

The association, which has a membership of around 4,000 retailers, has called for sales to be permitted until midnight. Many independent outlets have experienced declining profits and widespread closures in the face of competition from larger supermarket chains.

The association has also urged the Government to lower penalties for breaching the restriction, pointing out that the TRY36,758 (US$) fine is far higher than the penalty for illegally possessing a firearm.

  • France - Government and alcohol producers consult on revised health warning labels

French trade association Vins et Société has confirmed that producers are negotiating the terms of a "comprehensive plan for prevention" with the Ministry of Health that will revise and extend current mandatory warning label regulations. Vins et Société president Joël Forgeau said that a joint proposal by the winemaking, brewing and distilling sectors is in the process of being drafted, and will be submitted to the ministry "by the summer".

While producers have included a warning logo against consumption while pregnant on labels since 2006, the Ministry has requested that the logo be made clearer and more visible, also requesting messages against underage drinking, drink-driving and excessive consumption.

Forgeau commented that if the Government suggests "a two-centimetre logo, it may be a problem because [wine] labels are small, but we should be able to find a compromise via the colours to make it more visible". This request in itself would not be grounds to oppose the plan, he added.

Minister of Solidarity & Health Agnès Buzyn recently rejected a proposal from the High Council for Public Health for stricter language in mandatory health warnings labels. Buzyn had previously suggested that the Government's position should be that there was no safe limit for alcohol consumption. Shortly after making these comments, however, Buzyn was publicly overruled by both Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and President Emmanuel Macron.

  • Poland - 40% prefer to consume alcohol primarily during holidays and on special occasions

The Association of Employers of the Polish Spirits Industry (ZP PPS) is launching a new campaign to promote moderate consumption, highlighting the different ways in which people choose to consume alcohol responsibly.

A survey commissioned by the group as part of its 'Alcohol. Always Responsibly' campaign, found that more than 80% of respondents consume alcohol, rising to 94% among 18- to 24-year-olds.

A campaign spokesperson also noted that 88% of people who consume alcohol do so responsibly, while only 7% engage in harmful drinking.

  • Sweden - Riksdag backs farm sales of alcohol outside of state monopoly

Members of the Riksdag in Sweden have passed a bill allowing the sale of alcohol from shops on farms in the country. While the majority of legislators had previously expressed their support for the proposals, Coalition Government partners the Swedish Social Democratic Party and the Environmental Party had been joined by the Left Party in criticising the bill. The parties argued that farm sales would fundamentally threaten the existence of state alcohol retail monopoly Systembolaget by jeopardising an EU free trade exemption that allows it to operate.

A Moderate Party spokesperson countered that the proposal would benefit the economy and create jobs, noting that while the Coalition Government was opposed to the proposal, it might be implemented by a different government after the impending general election.

  • Canada - Bar, restaurant workers will benefit from increase in alternative minimum wage

The British Colombia State Government has announced that bar and restaurant staff will become eligible for the province's general minimum wage, as part of its policy to phase out the alternative minimum wage. Hospitality staff currently receive a minimum of CAD10.10 per hour, which will now increase incrementally every year until a rate of $15.20 is reached in 2021.

The change follows recommendations from the Fair Wage Commission, and will also benefit farm workers, resident caretakers and live-in home support workers.

BC Minister of Labour Harry Bains said that "workers deserve a minimum level of protection so that, regardless of a person's job description, they don't earn a wage that is distinctly less than the general minimum wage."

  • The UK - Plastic bags for alcohol will not reduce anti-social behaviour on flights

The Government has released details of its draft 'Aviation Strategy', which would require all airline passengers buying alcohol at airports to carry them in Sealed Tamper Evident Bags (STEBs). Passengers found consuming their own alcohol onboard a flight would be liable for criminal charges.

The UK Travel Retail Forum (UKTRF) has argued that placing alcohol purchased at the airport in STEBs will do little to limit the "UK societal problem" of passengers being intoxicated. A more collaborative approach from airline staff, ground handling agents, airport police, and management could curb excessive alcohol consumption, the association said.

A UKTRF spokesperson expressed support for stricter punishments for disruptive passengers, calling for airline companies to participate in a shared passenger blacklist.

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