WHO position as outlined in the strategy
Consumption of illicitly or informally produced alcohol could have additional negative health consequences due to a higher ethanol content and potential contamination with toxic substances, such as methanol. It may hamper governments’ ability to tax and control legally produced alcohol. Actions to reduce these additional negative effects should be taken according to the prevalence of illicit and/or informal alcohol consumption and the associated harm. Good scientific, technical, and institutional capacity should be in place for the planning and implementation of appropriate national, regional, and international measures. Good market knowledge and insight into the composition and production of informal or illicit alcohol are also important, coupled with an appropriate legislative framework and active enforcement. These interventions should complement, not replace, other interventions to reduce harmful use of alcohol.
Production and sale of informal alcohol are ingrained in many cultures and are often informally controlled. Thus control measures could be different for illicit alcohol and informally produced alcohol and should be combined with awareness raising and community mobilization. Efforts to stimulate alternative sources of income are also important.
Policy options outlined in the strategy
(a) Implementing quality controls with regard to production and distribution of alcohol beverages
(b) Regulating sales of informally produced alcohol and bringing it into the taxation system
(c) Instituting an efficient control and enforcement system, including strip stamps
(d) Developing or strengthening tracking and tracing systems for illicit alcohol
(e) Ensuring necessary cooperation and exchange of relevant information on combating illicit alcohol among authorities at national and international level
(f) Issuing relevant public warnings about contaminants and other health threats from informal or illicit alcohol
Brief comments from an industry perspective
A significant portion of alcohol consumed around the world is not reflected in official statistics because it is in the informal or illicit sector. This includes traditional drinks produced, whether legally or illegally, for home consumption or limited local trade, as well as unregistered or counterfeit products, and nonbeverage – or surrogate – products. Because it is not taxed, regulated, or recorded, little is known about such alcohol, its production, consumption, and related outcomes. Although the production of many such beverages meet high quality standards, some may be contaminated or toxic. This poses a threat to public health, particularly in developing or transition countries, but the magnitude of the problem is unclear. Industry members can undertake activities to help clarify this.
How can industry members support the above policy options?
- Providing information and sharing data on the scale of informal alcohol production and consumption
- Providing affordable alternative forms of commercially produced alcohol
What ICAP tools are available to support this work?
ICAP’s term “noncommercial alcohol” refers to three types of drinks produced, sold, and consumed outside of the formal beverage alcohol sector: traditional drinks made for home consumption or limited local trade; mass-produced illicit alcohol and counterfeit products; and surrogate (or nonbeverage) alcohols.
Noncommercial alcohol is one of the major focus areas of the Global Actions on Harmful Drinking initiatives, with research underway in Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, China, Estonia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Russia, and Sri Lanka.
What other tools are available?