According to the statistics provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people who consume alcoholic beverages is around 2 billion. Approximately 76.3 million of these people are believed to be alcohol addicts. Unregistered consumption corresponds to 25% of the total alcohol consumption. Every year, 3.3 million people die due to an illness associated with alcohol use. Alcohol consumption is among the risk factors for more than 60 diseases. Many countries implement various strategies to minimize alcohol’s harms and keep its consumption in check.
In a broad sense, alcohol policy forms the very framework of the policies for measuring and assessing the alcoholic beverage market, the alcohol consumption levels and types, and the frequency of the problems associated with alcohol consumption as well as for the policies that need to be implemented in this context. Alcohol policy consists of social policies geared for controlling the production, distribution and marketing of alcoholic beverages, identifying the drinking patters and the rate of problems related to alcohol use, and treating the problems linked to alcohol consumption, and making other interventions.
Limiting physical access to alcoholic beverages, taxing alcohol, implementing age-related restrictions, providing training on alcohol, performing media information campaigns, expanding the sanctions about drink driving, etc. can be included in alcohol policies.
Alcohol policies can be discussed under three main headings:
Regulating Physical Access to Alcoholic Beverages
Alcohol is different from other commercial products in that it is an addictive and harmful substance. Therefore, access to alcohol should not be as easy as access to other commercial products. Regulation of physical access to alcoholic beverages consists of various measures that are applicable to outlets, selling hours, age, etc.
Research suggests that restrictions on the dates and hours when alcoholic beverages can be sold as well as reduction of the number of outlets where they can be sold help to minimize alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. The enactment of the bill that raises the minimum legal age for buying alcoholic beverages has helped to minimize the sales of alcoholic beverages and the problems associated with alcohol consumption at a young age. The regulations concerning alcohol vendors who sell alcoholic beverages to minors or who do not pay attention to other restrictions are apparently effective. There are many examples of such practices around the world. Some examples are given below:
It is forbidden to sell alcoholic beverages near hospitals, schools or old age asylums.
Various restrictions about the supply of alcoholic beverages in education or training centers, sports centers, local youth clubs and health services facilities are in force.
Alcohol consumption in the streets is forbidden between 21:00 and 05:00 in many cities as well as in Champs-de-Mars square behind the Eiffel Tower and along the Saint-Martin canal, and at night in Dijon, Toulouse, Langres and Quimper. The ban is in force between 15:00 and 03:00. It is forbidden to sell alcoholic beverages near hospitals, schools, industrial areas or old age asylums as well.
In response to the high rate of alcohol-related deaths, Russia has taken radical decision to introduce bans on alcohol sales between 22:00 and 07:00 in the markets as well as to prohibit alcohol consumption in public places.
To sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday is strictly prohibited.
The sale of alcoholic beverages within 300 meters of schools is prohibited.
The retail sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in education, training and health institutions and between 22:00 and 08:00 in vending machines.
The sale of liquors containing 20 percent alcohol is prohibited.
The sale of alcoholic beverages to people under 18 is prohibited.
To consume alcoholic beverages in public places is prohibited.
The sale of alcoholic beverages to people under 16 is prohibited.
Pricing and Taxation
Research has shown that the price of alcoholic beverages is directly related to alcohol consumption levels. It is found that when prices of alcoholic beverages rise, drinking frequencies of consumers decline and the reverse is also true. Furthermore, economic studies have indicated that any rise in prices of and taxes on alcoholic beverages is directly related to declining alcohol-related problems.
The effect of price changes on alcohol consumption is vigorously studied in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North America. There is strong evidence that any rise in prices of alcoholic beverages results in declining consumption of those beverages and vice versa. Therefore, price increases and taxation are considered as an effective public health tool for minimizing alcohol consumption and associated damages.
Taxes on alcoholic beverages should be at the top of list of measures designed to minimize alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms as they are relatively effecient, cost-effective, easy to implement and can boost the government revenues.
If prices of alcoholic beverages were raised by 10 percent via taxes in European Union member countries, it would be possible to avoid more than 9,000 deaths and secure an additional consumption tax revenue worth of approximately 13 billion euros.
The alcoholic beverages market is a global industry. Alcoholic beverage brands are advertised on TV, the radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet. Repeated exposure to alcoholic beverage ads inculcates pre-drinking attitudes and increases the likelihood of heavy drinking. Alcoholic beverage ads tend to give minors predisposition for drinking alcoholic beverages before they acquire the legal age. Ads promote the sense of drinking in a positively attractive and relatively risk-free manner and reinforce this perception.
The marketing strategies of alcoholic beverage industry target specifically young people. Studies demonstrate that alcohol advertisements and the movie scenes with alcoholic beverages promote the consumption. These ads promote alcohol consumption among children and youths and also cause relapse among people who received alcohol addiction treatment.
Any limitation on alcoholic beverage ads in terms of content and quantity would reduce the potential damage. Ads certainly influence mostly youth, tempting them to drink alcoholic beverages. Given their effects, various restrictions have been imposed on ads in many countries. Some of them are listed below:
In Ireland, there is a TV and radio advertising ban on strong drinks. Alcoholic beverage ads cannot be aired before sports programs. The same ad cannot be aired twice during the nighttime on the same channel.
There are laws prohibiting TV and radio ads for beverages with high alcohol content. The Austrian Television and Radio Law prohibits alcoholic beverage ads targeting minors. All sorts of ads that promote alcohol use are banned.
Alcoholic beverage ads targeting youth are prohibited and the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors is a crime.
Restrictions on alcoholic beverage ads are in place. These restrictions are manifest mainly in the form of partial bans on the electronic media.
Alcoholic beverage ads are banned from being aired at the programs geared toward children and youth (15 minutes before and after them). It is prohibited to broadcast ads for distilled alcoholic beverages between 15:00 and 19:00. Any violation of this provision is punishable with a fine of 2,500 to 5,000 euros.
There is a full regulatory ban on ads for strong alcoholic beverages. There is a partial ban in place regarding ads for beer and wine.
There is a ban on alcoholic beverage ads in magazines. In addition, ads for beers are not allowed to be broadcast between 06:00 and 20:00 on TV.
Alcoholic beverage ads targeting people under 25 are prohibited from being broadcast on TV and radios between 19:00 and 21:30, and at movie theaters before 22:00.
No one can advertise alcoholic beverages by distributing leaflets or by using a motor vehicle fitted with announcing equipment in the streets or highways open to the public.