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

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

Helping hand. In the story 'Police Now Obliged to Help Drunks', The Moscow Times has reported that Russian police are now required to ensure the safety and health of people intoxicated in public, including administering first aid, protecting them from assault and robbery, and driving them to the hospital. Experts reportedly praised the measure as a logical division of labour between police and medics.

Russia has a long history of attempts to reduce harmful drinking, including bans on production under the Tsars and, more recently, during the Gorbachev regime. Various other measures are currently under discussion, including excise tax increases, licensing revisions, anti-counterfeiting efforts, and compulsory treatment of alcohol dependent individuals.

Hospitable. Hotel owners are reportedly concerned that many citizens in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) don’t seek jobs in the hospitality industry due to cultural concerns about alcohol. Dubai’s luxury hotel group Jumeirah has urged Emiratis to pursue employment in the sector, saying that, despite perceptions to the contrary, many hotel and restaurant jobs in the UAE do not involve alcohol beverages.

That said, according to the Emirates Nationals Development Programme, the number of Emiratis in the hotel industry is almost zero. As an Islamic country, UAE observes Sharia law prohibiting alcohol sales and consumption. Expats may purchase alcohol from authorised retailers if they have a licence to do so, and may consume alcohol in bars in most major hotels. UAE alcohol policies have been increasingly spotlighted by the media since it was announced that, Qatar will become the first Islamic country to host the World Cup soccer tournament in 2020.

Candid camera. Latvian public transportation company Rigas Satiksme plans to invest LVL4.5m (US$8.5m) over three years in a transport video surveillance system. Public transportation drivers will automatically be subjected to “intoxication control”, and would be prohibited from operating vehicles after reaching a specified blood alcohol content (BAC) level. The system will also feature “SOS buttons” for emergency situations.

In Vietnam, ICAP is partnering with national and provincial authorities and stakeholders on a pilot Bus Driver Project in support of what is known as the government’s Resolution 88. Under the resolution, bus drivers who test positive for BAC levels at bus stations will not be permitted to perform their duties. Such industry-sponsored efforts will be the focus of an international conference in October, entitled Global Actions: Initiatives to Reduce Harmful Drinking.

Riding the rails. In the US, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has approved an amendment to its advertising guidelines to repeal a 15-year-old ban on alcohol ads. Advertising for beer, wine, and spirits will now be permitted on certain CTA rail cars and at designated rail stations. The move is expected to generate an additional US$3.2m for the agency, which began 2012 with a $277m budget deficit.

Although the Chicago Tribune quipped “CTA falls off wagon”, the amendment includes detailed restrictions. Alcohol advertisements will be prohibited at rail stations near schools and at stations where reduced-fare student riders exceed 7.5% of total ridership. Alcohol ads on train exteriors will be limited to 15 pairs of cars, and all such ads will be required to include statements about the legal drinking age in Illinois and warnings on the potential dangers of alcohol consumption.

International law? A response has been published in the journal Nature to the call by Devi Sridhar for the World Health Organization to regulate alcohol using international law through a framework convention. Authors Steven Hoffman from McMaster University and John-Arne Røttingen from Harvard Kennedy School assert that such laws, largely dictated by richer states, obligate poorer states to implement them ahead of other local priorities.

The authors call for greater evidence that international laws bring results commensurate with the costs of drafting and implementing them. Their commentary challenges the notion that so-called “best buys” for alcohol policy, comprising regulation of alcohol availability, are effective and cost-effective in all circumstances and can be applied across nations.

Pledging a billion. As part of a Responsibility Deal initiative, 34 leading companies have announced a pledge with commitments developed to help their customers drink within UK Government-recommended guidelines.  The signatories include beverage alcohol producers, wholesalers, and retailers, with commitments including actions such as increasing sales of lower alcohol by volume (ABV) products, reducing the average ABV of some beverages, and removing certain products from sales channels. 

The companies have committed to removing 1bn units of alcohol from the market, with some companies pledging to remove target numbers of units by 2015, and others by 2020. Market intelligence suggests consumers are increasingly looking for lower strength wines, and in the past year, demand for lower-alcohol and non-alcohol beer has risen by 40% across all retailers.

Light and moderate. New research has found no elevated risk for ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke in women who have light-moderate alcohol consumption. The researchers used data from 83,578 female participants of the Nurses' Health Study over 26 years, between 1980 and 2006. They found that, compared to abstainers, light and moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a lower risk of stroke. 

As Reuters notes, “[s]everal previous reports have shown that low levels of alcohol drinking are tied to a smaller chance of having a stroke.” Of the roughly 25,000 women who never drank, around 4% had a stroke at some point during the study. The researchers cautioned against advising abstinent women to start drinking.

And, finally:

Naming and shaming. The Himalayan Times reports that The Mothers’ Group of Diktel in Nepal is campaigning door-to-door for a ban on alcohol sales and the establishment of an “alcohol-free society”. Group leaders say the number of people who consume alcohol in the town has decreased since the organisation began imposing fines on individuals found to be drinking, as well as publishing their names and photographs in the media.

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.

Click here to learn more about ICAP.