Responsible drinking issues around the world - The IARD Digest - September 2017

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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 - Heineken campaigns against drink driving as study unveils behavioural causes

Heineken has conducted a global study on drink-drivers' attitudes as part of its "enjoy Heineken responsibly" campaign. The group collaborated with behavioural design expert Sille Krukow to address the root causes of drink-driving. Around half of the 10,000 respondents said that they did not classify their behaviour as "drink-driving," while one-quarter thought that it was acceptable in their culture, and 57% were not concerned about being apprehended. Approximately 64% thought that drink-driving is acceptable following a large meal, if alternating the type of alcohol beverages that they were consuming, or having taken a short nap. About half thought they could consume more alcohol than drivers who do not drink before their ability to drive would be impaired. Krukow commented that changing consumer behaviour "is a matter of integrating visual feedback and behavioural principles into decision-making moments" and, as peer groups can be a significant positive influence against drink-driving, the campaign "will focus on solutions that can empower the group to stay in control and positively encourage their peers to make the correct decisions".

  • Africa - False WHO information on alcohol consumption goes viral

Widely-reported new WHO beverage alcohol consumption statistics for 49 African countries, first published by La Tribune Afrique last month, were in fact false. The Ecofin news agency originally disseminated the incorrect statistics, which ranked Gabon highest with an average per-capita consumption of 9.01 litres of pure alcohol, and Niger lowest with 0.1 litres. TSA reports that the widespread coverage of the statistics did not specify any dates, noting that the 'Global status report on alcohol and health 2014' is actually the most recent WHO report of this kind. A WHO spokesperson has since confirmed that no report of this nature has been released recently.

  • Global - CEOs of leading beer, wine and spirits producers to develop new responsible marketing standards for digital channels

The CEOs of the world's leading beer, wine and spirits producers have announced a new collective commitment to collaborate with social media companies and marketing agencies to develop new robust responsible marketing standards for digital channels. The chief executives have published a joint-statement noting that as digital media channels have become the arena where consumers want to engage with brands, they will utilise their achievements in strengthening and expanding marketing codes of practice to set robust responsibility standards for digital marketing that take account of the changing landscape.  They have also pledged to ensure that advertisements are only directed to adults. The CEOs stated that they can achieve more together than by working separately, and welcomed the opportunity to play a proactive role in further reducing the harmful use of alcohol in support of the United Nation's 'Sustainable Development Goals'.

  • Ireland - Junior Gardaí were "told to elevate" breath-test figures by senior officers

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has criticised the accuracy of a recent An Garda Síochána internal investigation into a widely-reported situation in which the number of breath tests conducted by Gardaí traffic officers between 2012 and 2016 was exaggerated by almost 100%. Assistant Garda commissioner Michael O'Sullivan's report into Mandatory Alcohol Testing found a discrepancy of 1.4m between the number of tests recorded on the police computer system and registered by breath-testing devices, with 500,000 new false breath tests discovered during the investigation in addition to the originally-reported 933,000. O'Sullivan's report had stated that there was no motivation for senior officers to have encouraged junior officers to inflate the number of breath-tests. The GRA has issued a statement, however, arguing that this data was in fact "utilised as a crude measure of productivity - and fed into a culture of competition among senior ranks to improve their promotion chances". The GRA also claimed that junior officers were informed by management that "if they did not elevate these figures there could be issues", and asserted that "no-one can categorically say it was our members falsifying data – we have numerous examples of supervisors and managers having input into this system".

  • Mexico - Brewers continue campaign against sale of alcohol to minors

Trade association the Brewers of Mexico has launched the fourth iteration of its annual underage drinking prevention campaign, as part of its Responsible Consumption Month. Around 30,000 "Don't pretend you didn't see" campaign volunteers will shortly begin visiting vendors to inform staff that they must comply with the legal purchase age, and must also require customers to present age-verifying identification. 

  • Estonia - Alcohol companies team up to promote consuming water between drinks

The Union of Alcohol Producers & Importers (ATML) has launched the follow-up phase of a responsible-drinking campaign advising consumers to drink glasses of water between alcohol beverages. Delfi reports that 84 licensed premises across Estonia will participate in the "If you drink, drink some water in between" activation by offering complimentary water to patrons, while five major retailers will also place campaign labels on bottles in order to promote responsible drinking at home. ATML executive director Triin Kutberg said that consuming water between alcoholic drinks is the easiest way for patrons to pace their consumption, thereby helping them to avoid becoming intoxicated.

  • The US - Office of Alcohol Testing admits to withholding faulty breathalyser equipment documents

The Massachusetts Office of Alcohol Testing (OAT) has admitted that it withheld information regarding the questionable accuracy of breath-testing devices, which could affect the veracity of 58,000 drink-driving cases in the state since 2011. The Chief Justice of the District Court consolidated 750 drink-driving cases in 2015 when doubts about the reliability of the Draeger 9510 devices were first raised. During the trial's discovery phase, defence attorneys found that the OAT had "turned over all the times the machine was successfully calibrated [but] didn't turn over the 413 times it failed." Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety Daniel Bennett has since ordered an internal investigation into the OAT, while Massachusetts District Attorneys will no longer use breath-testing evidence in trials or plea negotiations until the issue is resolved.

  • Uganda - UBL asks government to ban alcohol sold in inexpensive sachets

Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL) has called on the Government to ban the sale of inexpensive distilled spirits packed in sachets, a policy that authorities have reportedly been considering for some time. At a media roundtable discussion, UBL MD Mark Ocitti said that unrecorded vendors are selling sachet spirits for UGX600 (US$0.17), compared to UGX1,500 for a comparable volume sold in traditional packaging formats. He suggested that legitimate producers should use "more bulky formats … [to] force all players to invest in quality products that meet the requisite standards". Ocitti also argued that the proposal would form part of a larger conversation about alcohol regulation, noting that "pro-regulation" UBL would be willing to work with the Government "to come up with balanced regulation for the industry". Unrecorded alcohol currently in Uganda has a market share equivalent to 60%.

  • Italy - English dentists start Prosecco War with "Ruin the Smile" allegations

Politicians, beverage alcohol producers and the media have condemned articles appearing in the UK press warning that women consuming sparkling wine without food on a regular basis are at a greater risk of developing a so-called "prosecco smile" or poor dental health. Media outlets including the Guardian, the Independent and the Daily Mail covered the claims that regular consumption could lead to receding gums and tooth decay through the combination of carbon dioxide, alcohol and sugar, which were made by a British cosmetic dentist and corroborated by a British Dental Association (BDA) spokesperson. Italian online news outlet Londra Italia argued that the claims were written with ulterior commercial motives and did not contain any actual scientific information. Meanwhile, the country's Minister of Agriculture Maurizio Martina addressed a tweet to the Guardian claiming the article was "fake news" or deliberate disinformation. La Repubblica noted that the UK press had simultaneously covered a series of violent altercations over heavily-discounted cases of Prosecco at budget supermarket chain Lidl, suggesting this was indicative that the UK public had not paid attention to the original articles.

  • India - Bihar state government arbitrarily destroyed confiscated alcohol stocks, Supreme Court told

Alcohol producers have complained that the Government of Bihar deliberately destroyed stocks of confiscated alcohol worth approximately INR50m (US$775,000) ahead of a final Supreme Court (SC) ruling on whether it should have been returned for resale in other states where alcohol was not prohibited. The State Government had originally set a 31 May deadline for the destruction of any remaining alcohol stocks in the state, following the introduction of its controversial statewide prohibition policy in April 2016. The SC had extended the deadline to 31 July at the request of producers and distributors, but subsequently refused to extend it further. The producers' legal counsel argued that the State Government had been "vindictive and arbitrary" in deliberately destroying the stocks just three days before the final hearing. Counsel also noted that the authorities in states including Telangana and Maharashtra had already agreed for the stocks to be legitimately distributed within their borders as an alternative.

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