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Industry Guidelines

5.5 AREA 5: Availability of alcohol

5.5 AREA 5: Availability of alcohol

WHO position as outlined in the strategy
Public health strategies that seek to regulate the commercial or public availability of alcohol through laws, policies, and programs are important ways to reduce the general level of harmful use of alcohol. Such strategies provide essential measures to prevent easy access to alcohol by vulnerable and high-risk groups. Commercial and public availability of alcohol can have a reciprocal influence on the social availability of alcohol and thus contribute to changing social and cultural norms that promote harmful use of alcohol. The level of regulation on the availability of alcohol will depend on local circumstances, including social, cultural, and economic contexts as well as existing binding international obligations. In some developing and low- and middle-income countries, informal markets are the main source of alcohol, and formal controls on sale need to be complemented by actions addressing illicit or informally produced alcohol. Furthermore, restrictions on availability that are too strict may promote the development of a parallel illicit market. Secondary supply of alcohol (e.g., from parents or friends) needs also to be taken into consideration in measures on the availability of alcohol.
Policy options outlined in the strategy
(a)    Establishing, operating, and enforcing an appropriate system to regulate production, wholesaling, and serving of alcohol drinks that places reasonable limitations on the distribution of alcohol and the operation of alcohol outlets in accordance with cultural norms, by the following possible measures:
                     i.            Introducing, where appropriate, a licensing system on retail sales or public health-oriented government monopolies
                   ii.            Regulating the number and location of on- and off-premise alcohol outlets
                  iii.           Regulating days and hours of retail sales
                  iv.            Regulating modes of retail sales of alcohol
                   v.            Regulating retail sales in certain places or during special events
(b)   Establishing an appropriate minimum age for purchase or consumption of beverage alcohol and other policies in order to raise barriers against sales to, and consumption of, alcohol by adolescents
(c)    Adopting policies to prevent sales to intoxicated persons and those below the legal age and considering the introduction of mechanisms for placing liability on sellers and servers in accordance with national legislation
(d)   Setting policies regarding drinking in public places or at official public agencies’ activities and functions
(e)   Adopting policies to reduce and eliminate availability of illicit production, sale, and distribution of beverage alcohol as well as to regulate or control informal alcohol. 


Brief comments from an industry perspective 

Industry members support the need for a regulatory framework to govern the production, distribution, and sale of beverage alcohol. That framework should include a minimum legal purchase age for alcohol, should stipulate the days and hours for retail sales, and should set quality standards for commercially produced alcohol. Licensing systems should balance the need for public order and safety with the rights and responsibilities of individual consumers and those involved in alcohol beverage production and sale. Industry members regularly support server training schemes that aim to prevent sales to intoxicated persons or to those who are underage. It should be recognized that very severe restrictions on the sale of commercially produced alcohol may have the unintended consequence of shifting consumption to the informal or illicit sectors, which are not subject to regulation, are untaxed, and unaffected by restrictions on marketing or promotional activities. They may also lead to increased incidence of counterfeiting or smuggling.

How can industry members support the above policy options?

  • Supporting proof-of-age initiatives and other activities designed to discourage underage drinking
  • Supporting server training initiatives

What ICAP tools are available to support this work?

 What other tools are available?