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.

Brands. Russian wine importers and the country's media havevoiced concerns over draft legislation that would prohibit the use of any alcohol brand by name in written documents. The proposal is part of a broader alcohol advertising ban expected to begin on 1 January. Wine publications are also concerned that writers could no longer review specific alcohol products.

In addition, Russian officials recently issued a set of clarifications to the law “On Advertising”, stating that alcohol promotions can only offer alcohol beverages as competition prizes, to ensure that consumers do not purchase “an alcohol beverage in order to win children's clothes or a trip to Paris.” A spokesperson for SUN InBev said that the idea of offering alcohol as a promotional prize seemed at odds with the stated aim of reducing consumption and suggesting that limiting the value of competition prizes would be more effective.

Infringement. The Fengtai District Court in Beijing will hear a suit by Kweichow Moutai Co Ltd Guizhou against Ronghe Liquor Co Ltd over use of the term 'Maotai' on product labels. Kweichow contends that Ronghe’s use of 'Maotai' is copyright infringement, while Ronghe asserts that Maotai is the name of a place and therefore should be in the public domain. 

Geographical identity is under review in Europe’s courts as well. The European Court of Justice has rejected a lawsuit brought by Hungary against Slovakia over disputed names for wines from a region along the countries’ border. Hungary has contended that Slovakia should not have been permitted to alter language used in a European Union database to describe wines from the Tokaj region, and argued that the changing the wording could damage the reputation of Hungarian Tokaj wines and their producers. 

Tested. More than half of a sample of 65 non-commercial alcohol beverages collected in the city of São Paulo and the neighbouring town of Diadema, Brazil, tested as part of a recent study were contaminated with toxic substances, with 37% containing methanol. Professor Elisaldo Carlini of the Brazilian Center for Information on Psychotropic Drugs of the Federal University of São Paulo (Cebrid-Unifesp) said that approximately 69% of the beverages tested were taken from São Paulo, mainly from vendors, 81% of whom reportedly admitted that they knew that they were selling illegal beverages.

A detailed description of Professor Carlini’s research is found in ICAP’s recently-released monograph “Producers, Sellers, and Drinkers: Studies of Noncommercial Alcohol in Nine Countries”. The monograph presents the results of the research on noncommercial alcohol conducted from 2010 to 2012 as part of the Global Actions on Harmful Drinking initiatives. The research measured unrecorded alcohol production and consumption in nine low- and middle-income countries. Each chapter provides a snapshot of the non-commercial alcohol market in the selected countries, with investigators providing the local context of drinking and culture, and discussing implications for policy and prevention.

Online. Multi-national retailer Tesco has reportedly suspended all online alcohol beverage sales and deliveries in Poland due to a lack of clear regulation. A Tesco spokesperson said that the 30-year-old Act on Upbringing in Sobriety and Counteracting Alcoholism does not address Internet sales, and therefore it is not clear if they are legal.

Meanwhile, in the US, Internet retailer Amazon.com is scheduled to open an online wine marketplace with thousands of labels that will ship to customers in California, Florida, Idaho, Connecticut, Illinois, Nebraska, and Iowa, among other states. Customers can purchase up to six bottles for US$9.99, and can search by grape varietal, winery, tasting notes, professional rating, vintage, alcohol by volume (ABV), and price.

Limits. The Nordic Council in Helsinki has recommended that all of its member states adopt a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.2 mg/ml. The recommendation is intended to promote road safety across the Nordic region and deliver a clear drink-driving prevention message to young motorists. The proposal is not binding on any of its member states.

The Scottish Parliament has also voted in favor of draft legislation that would reduce the legal BAC limit in Scotland. Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told Parliament that the current BAC limit of 0.8 mg/ml is not doing enough to reduce fatalities from alcohol-related road traffic crashes, stating that decreasing the BAC limit to 0.5 mg/ml “will bring Scotland in line with the vast majority of Europe.”

Tourism. The Maldives Parliament has voted to accept a bill that could ban alcohol and pork in tourism establishments in the Maldives on the grounds of religious objections. A Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) official argued that permitting alcohol and pork products violated a clause in the constitution which states that “no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives”. The bill will now go to Parliament’s National Security Committee for review.

In India, on the other hand, Mizoram’s tourism minister has said that a 15-year-old ban on alcohol consumption in the state is negatively impacting the tourism industry, and urged non-governmental organisations and religious organisations to reconsider their support of the prohibition. Despite the ban, illegal alcohol sales and consumption are reportedly prevalent across the state.

Homebrew. In response to recent moves by Chinese Communist Party officials to reduce expenses for official banquets, leaders in Baishun have opted to brew their own rice wine. One official told the press that brewing rice wine would also be healthier and that the town consumes approximately 50 liters of alcohol per month during official gatherings.

The Communist Party may be cutting back, but one baijiu producer is hoping to increase sales with the appointment of China’s next president. The Xi Jiu distillery in Xishui by chance uses the same character for their product as Xi Jinping, who will become president in March 2013, even though it would typically be prohibited for party officials’ names to be associated with a product. The name association reportedly should double Xi Jiu’s 2010 sales figures by the end of 2012.

Flight. Russia’s Ministry of Transport is reportedly drafting legislation that would require airlines to take custody of their passengers’ duty free alcohol beverages until the end of flights. The Ministry has released a statement asserting that illegal actions on the part of passengers during flights are usually preceded by excessive alcohol consumption.

Duty-free alcohol is also under scrutiny in India. Delhi excise department officials have conducted raids on ten parties after beginning an enforcement operation targeting events where duty-free alcohol or alcohol purchased in another state is served without the required permits. An official said that offenders could face a minimum six-month imprisonment and a fine of INR50,000 (US$900).

And finally,

“I Voted”. In the US, the Portsmouth Brewery retracted its promotion offering voters in New Hampshire free beer in exchange for showing “I Voted” stickers due to legal restrictions. Brewery officials called off their planned promotion, which was first announced in October, after learning that it is in violation of federal election law.

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 organisation in Special Consultative Status.

Click here to learn more about ICAP.