Sunday, 6 January 2013

Around The World In Beer Control

I'll mostly be trundling up to Whitehall today for a few gentle drinks to celebrate the month of Drinkuary.

To coincide, I thought those of you who like a beer might be interested in a recent round-up of articles which assess how your particular vice is being attacked considered around the world.

In the US, the fiscal cliff has afforded over-spending politicians a perfect opportunity to screw the small brewer into his own floorboards.
Do we really think that these small American brewers will be able to compete effectively  (and grow and hire more workers) if the federal excise tax they pay increases from $7 per barrel to, say, $50 per barrel, as would be likely under the Jacobsen-Hacker proposal? A few might. But I guarantee you, most would not. In fact, many would be forced to shutter their breweries altogether and lay off their workers. Meanwhile, the large multinational brewers – AB InBev and MillerCoors – likely would be strengthened by such a change through reduction in competition.

The amount of revenue raised from small brewers by the Jacobsen-Hacker proposal is simply not justified by the economic harm such a proposal would cause.
Wow! That's a huge increase.

The new year has seen the same in France minus Gerard Depardieu, too.
Recovering from the infamous New Year Hangover was all the harder for us in France this year when we discovered, after dragging ourselves to the pub for an indispensable hair of the dog, that the most thirst-quenching of hangover solutions had just become that little bit more expensive.

The hike had been decided on in early December (happy Christmas!), when the French parliament approved a bill to raise beer tax by an excruciating 160%. 
Analysts predict that the cost of a pint will increase by 20 – 25%. With the current price – frankly extortionate for the poor standard of beer provided – at around €7 in Paris, we could be looking at €8.50 - €9 from now on.
Crikey! How on Earth do their politicians think that this is merited?
The reason France is able to get away with such a painful increase (the European Brewers’ Association described it as “the largest in history”) is because neighbouring governments collect a much prettier penny from their own punters. As President François Hollande pointed out in December, France’s increased rate is still piddly compared with those of the UK and Ireland, the treasuries of which garner 55p and 39p per pint respectively.
Ah yes, the ratchet only goes one way, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, in Russia plus Gerard Depardieu.
Beer in Russia will become an alcoholic drink for the first time on New Year's Day. 
Beer's new status as alcohol, however, will prevent retail sales from street outlets such as kiosks, railway stations, bus stops and petrol stations – which account for up to 30 per cent of sales – as well as preventing sales between 11pm and 8am, and introducing a ban on television advertising of beer. 
The new restrictions were signed off by then President Dmitry Medvedev in 2011 as part of an attempt to counter alcohol abuse, which he earlier called a "national calamity".
Do you think part of the "calamity" might be that they haven't been able to tax it before? Hmm, whaddya reckon?
Vodka remains the most popular – and most damaging – alcoholic drink in Russia but beer has been steadily advancing on it in recent years. 
Isaac Sheps, the chairman of the Union of Russian Brewers, claimed that cutting access to beer – including attempts by some regional governments to ban sales after 7pm or 8pm rather than 11pm – could be damaging to health. 
"It will be tougher if you want to buy a beer on the way home from work, or pop down from your apartment," he told the Daily Telegraph. 
"So you have to stock at home. And stocking beer is more problematic than stocking vodka. It's bulky, it's big, there's no room for it in small homes. It's much easier to buy two bottles of vodka and manage for your instant need for alcohol. 
"So it's quite ironic that this attempt to improve health and lower alcoholism could have the opposite effect and cause people to drink more harmful spirits."
Hey, Isaac, it's never been about health. You've got a lot to learn sunshine.

Still, beer will be OK in the long run, eh? I mean, it's not like there's a game-changer like the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) - which did for tobacco - on the horizon any time soon. Not au fait with the MSA? Well, it was a court case which inflicted billions in costs on a number of tobacco companies after it asserted that tobacco was 'addictive'. These payments were, crucially, distributed to health groups ... so they could manufacture even more 'studies' on the damaging effect of smoking.

If only the anti-alcohol crew were able to call on such a binding judgement, eh? Just imagine the fun (and funds) they could enjoy if someone were to be successful.
Brown and four other inmates at Idaho’s Kuna facility are suing major beer companies, blaming their crimes on alcoholism and claiming that the companies are responsible because they don’t warn consumers that their products are addictive. 
Reminiscent of lawsuits filed against major tobacco companies in the mid-1990s, the litigation targets many of the same companies named in a lawsuit filed last February by an Indian tribe in South Dakota. In that case, the Oglala Sioux accused beer companies and a nearby store of contributing to rampant alcoholism on the reservation by disregarding the tribe’s no-alcohol policy. 
“I have spent a great deal of that time in prison because of situations that have arose because of people being drunk, or because of situations in which alcohol played a major role,” Brown wrote. “At no time in my life, prior to me becoming an alcoholic, was I ever informed that alcohol was habit forming and addictive.” 
That argument was the crux of class-action lawsuits against major tobacco companies in the 1990s, which led to stronger warning labels and restrictions on advertising for cigarettes and other tobacco products. 
Jeremy Brown, 34, is serving a 20- to 30-year sentence for a 2001 shooting in Latah County that seriously injured a man. He said that he was drunk at the time and that if he’d not been an alcoholic, “the shooting would never happened.” 
He said he never would have started drinking if he knew it was habit forming.
Those war drums are banging in the distance, beer guys. Take your earmuffs off, just in case.

1 comment:

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX “At no time in my life, prior to me becoming an alcoholic, was I ever informed that alcohol was habit forming and addictive.” XX