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 responsible role for alcohol in society.
EU – Estonian EU presidency to focus on alcohol policy
Estonia’s Minister of Health & Labour, Jevgeni Ossinovski, has stated that the country’s Government will focus on matters relating to EU alcohol policy during its presidency of the European Council that runs for the final six months of 2017. Ossinovski stated on social media that EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis acknowledged the country’s plans during a recent meeting, agreeing that “within the framework of the presidency, Estonia will put the focus on several Europe-wide topics of alcohol policy from online marketing to labelling of alcohol.” The Government will announce the priorities of its presidency shortly before commencement at the beginning of July.
Lithuania – Government coalition creates harmful drinking prevention programme
New coalition government partners the Lithuanian Peasant & Greens Union Party (LVZS) and the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (LSDP) have published a draft programme on alcohol regulation and harmful drinking prevention. Delfi reports that the new Government plans to reduce the availability of alcohol by establishing a state-owned beverage alcohol retail monopoly, increase the legal purchase age to 20 years old, and restrict both the number of retail outlets selling alcohol and the hours of sale for alcohol. The Government also intends to increase both the penalties for breaches of sales regulations and licensing laws as well as excise duties on alcohol. “The procedure for issuing licences for the sale of alcohol… will be tightened during the transition period” before the planned monopoly is established. The Government also intends to completely prohibit alcohol advertisements and increase enforcement efforts against unrecorded alcohol.
Japan – Authorities outline new tax rates for alcohol
Coalition partners the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komeito (KM) party have reportedly agreed on an outline for draft legislation that would simplify and harmonise taxation rates on beer, wine, and sake. The Government’s bill would see beer, so-called quasi-beer, low-malt beers, and beer-based beverages be taxed at JPY54.25 (US$0.47) per 35cl by 2026, and wine and sake would both be taxed at JPY35 per 35cl by October 2023. The Brewers Association of Japan called the proposal a “step forward”, but contended that “the tax rate was still too high” for the prior category compared to other beverages. Independent brewers have asserted that the policy would make it easier to compete with larger brands.
France – Monthly consumption declines among youth
The French Monitoring Centre for Drugs & Drug Addiction (OFDT) has published a new report indicating that monthly consumption of beverage alcohol by 15-year-olds declined from 58% in 2006 to 42% in 2014, and that the average age for the first consumption of alcohol in the country is 15.2 years old. The OFDT found that the number of youths who use the internet daily increased from 23% in 2003 to 83% in 2015, a factor that OFDT director François Beck believes is key to “the later consumption of alcohol by youth,”. Beck also said that the “generation born between 2000 and 2005 … spends a lot more time connected to screens than the previous one”, leading to fewer opportunities to consume alcohol. She also noted other factors include public prevention policies and parental behaviour, as parents of adolescents born in 2003 and 2004 are consuming less alcohol and tobacco products than previous generations.
Argentina – Buenos Aires bans alcohol advertisements
The Buenos Aires Legislature has passed legislation that will prohibit beverage alcohol advertisements from appearing in outdoor public places, as well as “all forms of advertising, promotion, sponsorship, or funding of cultural, sporting, or educational activities with free access”. Clarín reports that the legislation exempts advertisements that bear no marketing information about the product beyond its brand name, and allocate 75% of the ad to health warning messages including “Excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to health”, “Do not drink alcohol during pregnancy”, “Excessive alcohol consumption causes heart disease”, and “Drinking alcohol excessively shortens your life”. Legislature 3rd VPRoy Cortina stated that progress “in the prevention of alcohol consumption requires setting precise limits on marketing that legitimises it as a social habit”.
Greece – Wine excise duty hike falls short of expectations, increases smuggling
A significant increase in the excise duties on beverage alcohol implemented by the Government of Greece earlier this year has only yielded EUR4m (US$4.2m) in tax revenue, compared to a projected EUR65m. The Government’s special consumption tax on alcohol products (EFKOP) was part of measures to increase revenues during a period of poor economic outlook, but alcohol producers and other stakeholders have asserted that it has instead created a surge in unrecorded wine production and smuggling. Greek Wine Federation (SEO) president George Skouras asserted that the practice of unrecorded producers paying legitimate vineyard owners cash in advance for their grapes is “commonplace”. Central Cooperative Union of Vine & Wine Products (KEOSOE) president Giannis Vogiatzis said that the increased excise rate “is a punishment for those who wish to conduct business legally”, estimating that while approximately 65% of wine sold in the past year was domestically-produced and traded through legal channels, only 35% was taxed accordingly.
Ireland – Senate pauses debate on national alcohol policy
The Government of Ireland has deferred a Senate debate on its controversial draft national beverage alcohol policy until after the festive period, in a bid to overcome internal divisions over the bill within coalition partner the Fine Gael party. Some Fine Gael Members of the Oireachtas (TDs) have expressed concern that provisions of the draft Public Health (Alcohol) Bill that would require store owners to display alcohol in an area that is separated structurally from the rest of the premises by a physical barrier, could be financially prohibitive to independent retailers, and have asserted they will oppose this section of the bill. Junior Health Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy stated she stood behind the bill and did not want “children to be exposed to alcohol as an ordinary commodity beside butter and cheese”, noting that her department has produced information showing that the segregation requirement in the bill could be met by inexpensive means including plastic screens.
Russia – Ministry of the Economy wants to regulate beer separately from other alcohol beverages
The Ministry of the Economy will shortly consider a proposal submitted by the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow and the Union of Russian Brewers that would regulate beer separately to other alcohol beverages. Kommersant reports that the proposal calls for new federal legislation to regulate the marketing and sale of beer. The move would withdraw legislation introduced in 2013 further restricting beer advertising and prohibiting sales for temporary retail structures such as kiosks, sports clubs, as well as on the internet. The document’s authors assert that these restrictions “led to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs out of thousands of companies, small businesses, and individual entrepreneurs, and a significant reduction in tax revenues to budgets of all [administrative] levels”. The authors also call for an extension to the current hours of sale for alcohol to be applied to beer. A Union of Alcohol Producers spokesperson criticised the proposal, stating that “all alcohol beverages containing ethyl alcohol should be governed by a common law and there should not be concessions for any category”. Federal beverage alcohol regulator Rosalkogolregulirovanie (PAP) declined to comment on the proposal.
Indonesia – Controversial prohibition bills stalled until 2017
United Development Party (PPP) Deputy Secretary General Ahmad Baidowi has announced that controversial draft legislation that would prohibit or further regulate the production, distribution, and consumption of beverage alcohol will not be completed by the end of 2016 as scheduled, as the PPP is still consulting with stakeholders including Muslim organisations Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah with the intention of progressing the bill next year. The Jakarta Post reports that the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) have also endorsed the bill, but that it is unlikely to pass by the end of the year even though it was a priority bill in the 2016 National Legislation Program (Prolegnas). Opposition has come from seven other factions that are against a total ban on alcohol and are instead pushing for increased regulation. The Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI) has asserted that total prohibition is unnecessary, and has suggested a compromise of a regulation requiring alcohol producers to list ingredients on their products so consumers “can make their own decisions about whether to buy something”
Spain – Ministry of Health tackles underage drinking
The Ministry of Health (MSSSI) has announced that it is drafting legislation intended to reduce underage drinking, which will be similar to existing legislation restricting the availability of tobacco products in the country. Responding to a recent Basque Nationalist Party parliamentary question on underage drinking rates and prevention efforts, Health Minister Dolors Monserrat informed the Congress of Deputies that work on the bill is underway and that the Government would be seeking a cross-party consensus on the issue. Several government officials have stated that underage drinking is indicative of a larger social issue, arguing that it should be dealt with as seriously as smoking. The MSSSI published a report earlier this year indicating that approximately 80% of 14- to 18-year-olds have consumed alcohol at least once, and that the national average age of first consumption for alcohol is 13.9 years old.
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