Every month, the International Center for Alcohol Policies looks at responsible drinking measures around the world

Every month, the International Center for Alcohol Policies looks at responsible drinking measures around the world

Once a month, the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), which covers alcohol policies worldwide, will look at what's going on in-market to promote a responsible role for alcohol in society.

The 15%. Approximately 15% of adult Belarusians are distilling illicit alcohol, according to a National Academy of Science’s Institute of Sociology report. The country’s per capita alcohol consumption would be 11.39 litres of pure alcohol annually if calculated from legitimate sales figures, but officials have estimated that actual consumption is closer to 15 litres with the report.

Policy makers and researchers have found collecting data on production and consumption of noncommercial alcohol to be difficult since many of the products are illegal. While the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that non-commercial alcohol accounts for around 30% of total alcohol consumption worldwide, it is significantly higher in some regions.

Many different responses to tacking the informal market have been tried. Police in Latvia, for example, are launching an initiative welcomed by the Alcohol Producers and Traders Association (ARTA) that allows the public to participate in efforts specifically to deter the illicit alcohol market. The police has now enabled its website to allow members of the public to report traders of illicit alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to the police.

Outdoors. The Ethiopia House of People’s Representatives has passed legislation limiting advertising of drinks with abv of 12% or above to outdoor billboards and publications that are not distributed daily or weekly. In addition, outdoor alcohol ads must be at least 100 metres from public facilities including schools, hospitals, and stadiums.

While Ethiopian officials have limited advertising by abv, other countries are taking more blanketed action. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has signed a law prohibiting all beverage alcohol advertisements on the internet and in print media. The ban on internet advertisements will begin immediately, while the ban on print advertisements will not be implemented until 2013.

Sniff test. Nepal police are enforcing a zero tolerance drink driving policy by using “sniff tests” to assess drivers’ potential alcohol consumption. Police officials in the capital, Kathmandu, have few breathalysers and no access to blood testing. The policy also permits officers to use their discretion after sniff tests to impose fines and seize licenses of drivers suspected of drinking. Nepal’s indigenous Newar community has expressed concerns about the zero tolerance policy as consuming alcohol is an important part of its traditions, and recommended awareness education campaigns as an alternative way to address drink driving.

In addition to enforcement campaigns, alcohol awareness and education efforts have been shown to be an essential component to any comprehensive approach to alcohol issues, including drink driving. In the recently-released issue seven of the ICAP Periodic Review on Drinking and Culture, researchers in Spain evaluated a programme for changing behaviours in Catalonian pre-drivers to reduce alcohol-related road traffic crashes. The results suggested that young pre-drivers who received the programme obtained better results in road safety and showed less risk of drink-driving than those who did not receive the programme.

Baseline surveys. ICAP, the Chinese Center for Health Education (CCHE), Jiangsu Province Civilization Office and the Public Security Department have begun implementation of the "Care for life, refuse drink driving" initiative as part of Global Actions on Harmful Drinking. The joint initiative recently coordinated baseline surveys on drink-driving behaviours in Nanjing. Survey results reportedly show that 102 of the 5,224 randomly-selected individuals were in violation of drink driving laws. These surveys will create the basis for interventions aimed at reducing drink driving in the region.

The WHO estimates around 70% of road traffic fatalities in emerging markets and developing countries are related to BAC levels above the legal limit. These include drivers of motorised vehicles, as well as cyclists and pedestrians. Capacity building efforts, such as Global Actions, are necessary to train law enforcement and others at country level in approaches to reduce drink driving and also to collect data needed to measure change.

Pyramid. Ireland’s Department of Health has revised its food pyramid to include alcohol as a “top shelf” item, citing its “high calorie content and low nutritional value.” The department released a booklet outlining top shelf items including foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar, but does not offer recommended daily servings for alcohol because it is “not essential”.

While information about the nutritional value of alcohol is evolving, studies have indicated that moderate drinking can have protective effects for cardiovascular disease, cognitive function, and overall quality of life.

A protective effect from moderate drinking has been described for osteoporosis in older women. Additionally, new research suggests that women who drink moderately may also have a reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm analysed drinking habits in 34,141 women from the prospective Swedish Mammography Cohort between 2003 and 2009. They found that those women who regularly drank more than four units of alcohol per week had a 52% decreased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared to non-drinkers.

Flights. Tunisian airline TunisAir has announced that alcohol beverages will not be offered in flight during Ramadan. Senior TunisAir staff and hotel and travel agency employees have voiced concerns that many tourists visit Tunisia from Europe, and that implementing an alcohol ban could negatively impact their businesses.

Unlike other countries in North Africa and the Middle East, Tunisia does not prohibit the consumption of alcohol. In countries where consumption is banned, such as Bahrain and other Emirate countries, religious restrictions are often circumvented by allowing tourists to purchase and consume alcohol in hotels and resorts. A similar practice occurs in some dry counties in the US, where the purchase of alcohol is only permitted to 'members' of a restaurant, bar, or hotel, but patrons can often acquire 'membership' on the spot to allow the immediate consumption of alcohol.

Disposed. In Sweden, the West Götaland County police have been ordered to cease disposing of confiscated alcohol into the local drainage system, as it may contaminate water sources. Police have confiscated increasing quantities of smuggled alcohol bound for Norway recently, and the alcohol has primarily been poured into the drains of the collection centres where the containers are recycled.

An abundance of informally-produced alcohol has been reported in countries across Scandinavia, where the price of alcohol is high. Researchers have argued that strong regulation of the alcohol market may drive home production and other informal means of obtaining alcohol. There is a long history of personal imports of alcohol into Scandinavia from neighbouring countries where alcohol is cheaper, such as through the (in)famous 'booze cruise' ferries that operate between Sweden and ports in Denmark and Germany.

And finally…

Let’s dance. Asia Pacific Breweries has launched a new online anti-drink driving campaign that seeks to promote responsible drinking, with a focus on consumers in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Participants in the campaign create avatars online, and then post them on a website in a virtual conga line, along with messages about drink driving and the importance of getting home safely. We note that industry-sponsored actions to help reduce harmful drinking worldwide will be the focus of the upcoming international conference Global Actions: Initiatives to Reduce Harmful Drinking in Washington, D.C. on 8 and 9 October.

The International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP) is a not-for-profit organisation supported by major international producers of beverage alcohol. Established in 1995, ICAP’s mission is to promote understanding of the role of alcohol in society and to help reduce harmful drinking worldwide. ICAP’s efforts to foster dialogue and partnerships in the alcohol policy field are shaped by its commitment to pragmatic and feasible solutions to reducing harm that can be tailored to local and cultural considerations and needs. ICAP has been recognised by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) as a non-governmental organization in Special Consultative Status.

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