In Malawi there was an encouraging political process last year which aimed at banning the sale of liquor in plastic sachets. Now, as a result of a court decision, the process has stalled. Governments and NGOs have their hands tied up by the court injunction, while the strong liquor continues to be sold to minors, through legal and illegal channels. The problem with liquor sachets sold to minors was described by the participants at a regional alcohol policy consultation meeting in Chikhwawa in the Southern part of Malawi. The headmaster of Livuzu Secondary School, Mrs P. Simbota (picture right), said: ‘Alcohol simply affects negatively the quality of our education system. These sachets contain liquor with a high alcohol content and they are sold at a low price. Students sip from these sachets also during lessons, as the sachets are small and easy to hide. Some even mix the content with ordinary water or juice and conceal their dangerous habit by that.’ The introduction of strong liquor in small plastic bags is an attempt by the alcohol beverage industry, both local and multinational companies and in a number of countries, to find new market segments and to recruit new consumers. The sachets are sold at a very low price, so that many can afford them, including youth and poor people. One bag contains the equivalent of whiskey, vodka etc in a standard drink. The price of such a sachet in Malawi may be as low as 10 Malawian kwacha in the most extreme cases. This is equivalent to 7-8 US cents, which even for a poor Malawian is a low price. Often the sachets are sold through unlicensed outlets and to minors. As an attempt to convince customers that these sachets are powerful and masculine products they have been given very impressing brand names: Boss, Power’s No 1, Rider, Mafia, Champion and Black Punch! In Malawi it has also been disclosed that some producers have mixed non-food alcohol meant for export in the liquor sachets. Such alcohol is exempted from some domestic taxes and therefore obtained at a low cost. This helps to keep prices low and profits higher. One Blantyre-based company was closed down by the authorities because of use of ethanol not meant for consumption in their production of liquor sachets. Many Malawians have experienced the problems linked to alcohol in plastic bags, in particular among youth. NGOs and also politicians and government agencies have demanded that something should be done. The Ministry of Industry and Trade reported that from early 2010 there was an increased outcry from the general public. In particular parents were worried about the increased use of sachets mainly by boys of school going age. It also pointed to an alarming trend that minibus drivers and conductors were using liquor from sachets and thus putting lives of passengers at risk. After consultation with the industry and other stakeholders the Malawian Bureau of Standards (MBS) decided in June 2010 to ban the sale of liquor in plastic bags. The decisions provided that all liquor must be sold in glass bottle and that MBS should define a minimum size of such containers. The producers were given a six months grace period to phase out the use of plastic containers and to introduce glass bottles. The grace period ended 17th January this year. However, the ban could not be enforced by the government. One of the distilling companies, Abwensi Group which produces the Rider brand of spirits, had obtained a court injunction which restrains the MBS to enforce the ban of sachets on its company. Now the case is in the hands of lawyers, while liquor sachets continue to be sold. Source: ADD 03/07/11
Alcohol marketing on television is banned in Sweden, but since 2003 a number of TV channels have circumvented the Swedish Alcohol Act by broadcasting from the UK. It has been possible, but whether it is legal or not is not yet clear. That is why IOGT-NTO has sent a complaint on the fourth of March, concerning 32 companies who have broadcasted or produced alcohol advertisement targeting a Swedish audience, to the Swedish Consumer Agency and the Swedish Broadcasting Authority. The list includes among others Carlsberg Sweden, TV3 and Kanal 5. ‘It is obviously a problem that a number of companies can ignore the Swedish legislation’, says Sara Heine, handling the complaint from IOGT-NTO. IOGT-NTO wants the Swedish Consumers Agency to hear whether the television companies, along with producers of alcohol advertisement, violate the Swedish Alcohol Act. ‘Alcohol marketing on television is illegal. It increases the consumption among youth and it has little or no support among the Swedish population. The only ones to benefit are the producers of alcohol and advertisement’, says Sara Heine. Research shows that alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that children and adolescents will start to use alcohol, and drink more if they are already using alcohol. The University of Gothenburg has recently participated in a survey including twelve countries, which showed how much alcohol marketing that was broadcast during the time of day when most children are watching TV. Sweden was, despite our ban, top one. For more information go to IOGT-NTO Source: IOGT-NTO 03/04/11
Today the Western Australian city of Perth hosts a conference on drug and alcohol issues, visited by government ministers from Australia and New Zealand. Mike Daube, director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth , says he hopes the ministers take a harder look at alcohol advertising and develop tougher policies to address the issue. The Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy, an important instrument in determining national policies and programs intended to reduce drug related harm in Australia, will address growing concerns about alcohol and drug consumption, particularly among young people. Mike Daube, who is also professor of Health Policy at Curtin University, points at alcohol advertising as one of the main topics to tackle: ‘We are being almost drowned with alcohol advertising.’ He went on to say that as kids are being exposed to alcohol advertising and promotion, ‘it's small wonder that we have young children now drinking to get drunk.’ It is the hope of professor Daube that the meeting will result in new strategies to combat drug and alcohol problems among young people. ‘We're all concerned about drug abuse, we're all massively concerned about drinking patterns among young people,’ he said. ‘Anything that brings ministers from all jurisdictions together to develop new strategies in these areas is a good thing.’ Source: (02/25-11)
The days of sports sponsorship by alcohol companies in New Zealand may very well be numbered, according to Steve Stannard of the New Zealand School of Sport and Exercise. Stannard said this during a conference on Sport and Alcohol that was organized last week by the Massey University.  There may not be enough evidence for the support of a ban just yet, but Stannard thinks one is on the horizon: ’I suspect they're not going to do it before the Rugby World Cup, and it would be a challenge to do so, but things change’. He says when the costs of unhealthy drinking are balanced against what sport gains from alcohol sponsorship, there's probably a fairly strong case for a ban. During his research into the amount of alcohol advertising connected with sport, he found 935 images of logos and billboards promoting alcohol during last year's coverage of the Wellington Sevens, and 317 shots of people in the crowd drinking. Stannard found the study interesting, "We're talking also about fans with a beer in their hand and players with sponsors written on them etc. It's fairly considerable" he said. Source: 02/13/11
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published its 2011 Global status report on alcohol and health. Among the notable conclusions of this report is the figure of 2.5 million annual lives that are lost to alcohol abuse worldwide. Further noteworthy news from the report is that alcohol abuse is growing at alarming rates and consumption has increased drastically in both Asia and Africa. This, according to the WHO, is partly due to the fact that developing countries have less powerful regulations. Therefore the WHO calls for more effective measures, including stronger restrictions on alcohol marketing.  One of the chapters of the report focuses on alcohol advertising and marketing. This chapter says the most commonly used way to control alcohol advertising and marketing is not statutory rules but self-regulation or co-regulation. However, of all the WHO member states 41% reported to have no regulations, against 30% having either a full or partial ban for one or more beverage types. Among the WHO member states that participated in the survey for this report, most restrictions were found in Eastern Mediterranean, Nordic and South Asian countries. A new trend, compared to earlier surveys in 2002 and 2008, shows that there was a statistically significant shift towards more restrictive measures. For example Belarus moved from a partial to a full ban on advertising for wine and spirits; Estonia shifted from a partial to a full ban on television of all beverages; and Kenya went from no restrictions to partial restrictions. The further development of restrictions was also seen through bans on product placement; restrictions of sports sponsorship; and restrictions on sales promotion in the form of sales below cost. However, the survey did not examine the enforcement of any of these restrictions. Click here, for the full Global status report on alcohol and health 2011. Source: Daily Health Report (02/12/11)
olympics-big Dutch brewer Heineken has been confirmed as the exclusive ‘lager supplier’ and sponsor of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.   As part of the deal, Heineken will be the branded lager served at the Olympic Games. Heineken UK will have exclusive pouring rights for its portfolio of beer and cider brands at all Olympic venues where alcohol is served. The deal is rumored to be worth around £10m, which brings the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games closer to its target of raising £2bn from sponsorship. According to Alexis Nasard, the chief commercial officer of Heineken the agreement offers a ‘wonderful platform for the promotion of responsible drinking’. He went on to explain: ‘There are no bigger, global or more spectacular events than the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. We selected this opportunity as it fully reflects Heineken’s global brand position.’ Nasard also promises to utilize London 2012 to celebrate with the world in a way that ‘only Heineken can’. Three years ago the Organising Committee was in talks with Diageo - whose brands include Smirnoff, Guinness, Johnnie Walker and a host of others- to promote responsible drinking. This plan was dropped however, because it was feared that it would attract to much attention. It is troubling to see that in a nation, with as much alcohol related problems as the UK, and during an event that could very well invoke spectators to aspire a healthy lifestyle, the message to drink responsible is brought by a party who thrives commercially on people drinking as much as possible. Source: the Telegraph 02/07/11
While policy makers in Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand debate whether alcohol advertising and sponsorship should be banned from sport, new research provides evidence that alcohol industry sponsorship is associated with more hazardous drinking in sportspeople compared to non-alcohol sponsorship. Health scientists from Monash University, the University of Manchester, Deakin University and University of Western Sydney, asked Australian sportspeople about their drinking behaviours, sport participation, and what sorts of sport sponsorship they currently receive. After accounting for other influences receipt of alcohol industry sponsorship in various forms was associated with significantly higher levels of drinking. Receipt of similar forms of sponsorship from non-alcohol industries such as, building firms, food or clothing companies was not related to higher drinking levels. Of the 30 per cent of sportspeople reporting receiving alcohol industry sponsorship, 68 per cent met World Health Organisation criteria for classification as hazardous drinkers. The research, published online in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, is the first to compare alcohol industry sponsorship to non-alcohol industry sponsorship. Read more at: E! Science News
British Ministers have unveiled plans for setting up minimum prices for alcohol in England and Wales. According to the ministers their plan will prohibit shops and bars from selling alcohol for less than the rate of duty plus VAT. They say that this will set a base price for the first time ever and accordingly reduce crime. Home Office Minister James Brokenshire went on BBC Radio 4 were he suggested that the new floor on alcohol prices would prevent approximately 7000 crimes a year, 2000 of them violent. He also remarked that the plans will target products associated with problem drinking. While Professor Ian Gilmore, of the Royal College of Physicians and chairman of the UK Health Alliance carefully lauded the news as a step in the right direction, he also uttered disappointment: “It's an extremely small step. It will have no impact whatsoever on the vast majority of cheap drinks sold in supermarkets". Moreover he went on to state that the proposals would have no effect at all on the health of the nation. Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern of the British Medical Association urged ministers to look again at a minimum price per unit of alcohol. According to Shenker VAT is so low in the UK that this measure will not stop shops from selling very cheap alcohol and be within the law. Because of this the British Medical Association is calling for tougher actions. Although a 50 pence-per-unit minimum was backed by health campaigners, the plans of the Home Office are substantially lower, with a minimum price of around 21 pence per unit of beer and 28 pence per unit of spirits. Petra Meier, professor of public health at Sheffield University, said: ‘Around the 20 to 30p mark, the effect on alcohol-related harm is very modest.’ She predicts the new minimum prices to save about 21 deaths and about 2,400 hospitals admissions, “compared with say a 50p unit price, where you would save around 3,000 deaths and 39,000 hospital admissions.” For an overview of the new minimum prices click here. Source: the Mail Online 01/19/11
bud-family The American Alcohol Industry Watchdog, the Marin Institute recently reported of a banner campaign from Anheuser-Busch InBev for Budweiser “Family Packs”.  The Marin Institute was tipped by a youth group in Roseburg, Oregon who sent photo’s of the banners that where seen around town. According to the Marin Institute one of the banners was placed next to an elementary school. The banners promote two products, namely the “Busch Family 30 Pack” of Busch Light beer for $14.99 and the $16.79 “Bud Family 24 Pack Cube.” Umpqua Partners for a Drug Free Future, the organization which spotted the ads, was quick to start an online petition asking Anheuser Busch InBev to take down all "Family Pack" advertising. On the 13th of January Patti LaFreniere, Executive Director of Umpqua Partners states that Anheuser/Busch beer distributor, Western Beverage had informed her that the two banners advertising Bud and Busch Family packs were removed, and that all local ads would be removed on the same day. The Marin Institute offered appreciation to Western Beverage for quickly responding to the petition campaign. The institute also calls upon the Anheuser-Busch InBev corporation to stop packaging and promoting Budweiser and Busch Family Packs. Source: the Marin Institute, 11/16/10