The plan to introduce an additional fee for sale of small alcohol packages (bottles below 300 ml, so-called "monkeys") is another attack on the spirits industry, which has not been responsible for high alcohol consumption in Poland for many years. Companies associated in the Association of Employers Polish Spirit Industry (ZP PPS), warn - Polish government prefers beer - the most popular alcoholic drink in Poland - which, although containing the same ethanol as spirits, can be freely advertised, and for most of the society is not associated with alcohol. After an unexpectedly high increase in excise duty from 2020, the privileged position of beer in Poland is once again strengthening.
Beer consumption has exceeded the threshold of 100 litres per capita - according to data from the Institute of Economics, Agriculture and Food Economy. We consume almost as much beer a year as bottled water (100.5 l vs. 105 l per year). Beer is already responsible for almost 2/3 of the consumption of pure ethanol per year in our country. In Poland, around 256 million litres of vodka and almost 3.2 billion litres (12,4 times more) of beer are consumed annually. The beer industry underestimates these numbers, and thanks to the optimistic advertising message (fun, sport, joy, friendship) builds a vision of a safe drink, without consequences resulting from alcohol consumption. The false narrative of breweries effectively influences public opinion and decision makers. The introduced legal provisions unreasonably strengthen the position of the brewing industry responsible for the increase in alcohol consumption after 1989.
"Based on false information created in mass media by the brewing industry, the government takes wrong decisions about the alcohol market. The unreliable report of Synergion, which was commissioned by beer producers, created a false belief in society, that Poles consume most alcohol in spirits in small bottles. However, numbers indicate something completely different - Poles drink the most ethyl alcohol in beer. The brewing industry not only uses the possibility of advertising, but also breaks the rules and builds associations to fun when drinking beer. Alcohol is alcohol and should always be consumed responsibly. Meanwhile, the breweries managed to trick the society. Effect? Only 46% of Poles consider beer as an alcoholic drink, "says Witold Włodarczyk, President of the Board of ZP PPS.
Members of the ZP PPS ask public administration to urgently analyse the current structure of consumption of alcoholic beverages and a very high increase in sale of beer, which has the same impact on human health as other alcoholic beverages, that are subject to numerous legal restrictions. Only beer - regardless of the alcohol content - can be widely advertised. Cider, wine and alcoholic beverages - even if they contain less ethanol than beer - do not have that right. Non-alcoholic beer under the same brands as alcoholic beverages is a potential threat to minors - from an early age they can get used to the golden drink.
Members of the ZP PPS warn that the additional fee on the sale of alcoholic beverages in small containers will not solve the problem of excessive alcohol consumption and will only strengthen privileged position of the beer industry. In Poland, 811 k of 100 ml spirits bottles are sold daily, or 0.081 million litres, while Poles buy 8.7 million litres of beer every day. If we treat these numbers as a one-time sale, every day 3% of Poles of working age buy 100 ml spirit, and 33% a litre of beer (i.e. two cans or bottles). In almost a quarter of cases, it is beer with very often high alcohol content - higher than in a small bottle of spirits.
"Poland is the third country in Europe when it comes to the share of strong beers on the market. We give way only to France and Belgium, where strong beers are traditionally popular. Approx. 23% of beers sold in Poland are strong beers - in countries associated with beer, such as Germany or the Czech Republic, they are only 1.5% and 2%, respectively. The non-alcoholic beer segment, is still a margin despite propaganda. It is additionally dangerous to minors, because they get used to beer brands, it strengthens the most dangerous myth that "beer is not alcohol" and according to the law non-alcoholic beers can be bought by minors. - comments Marek Sypek, General Director of Stock Polska.
Currently, the cheapest unit of ethanol is available in beer, that’s why it is the most popular drink. According to the analysis of the Republican Foundation, 1% alcohol in beer 6% costs 0.87 PLN, while in vodka 1.2 PLN, and in whiskey 2.16 PLN. In small formats ("monkeys"), alcohol is the most expensive per unit, now in every bottle 75% of the price is taxes. The additional fee will increase sale of much lower taxed beer, it will not reduce alcohol consumption, and as the industry calculates - for each zloty obtained from the fee, the state will lose PLN 3 due to a decrease in excise tax revenues. To sum up, consuming 1 bottle of 100 ml flavoured spirit drink 30% ABV, we consume almost as much pure alcohol (24g) as in 0.5 l lager 5.5% ABV (22g), while a small bottle of strong alcohol is twice as expensive then bottle of beer (PLN 6 vs. PLN 3).
"Beer, thanks to the possibility of advertising, is associated with fun, friendship, being cool, and not responsible consumption, which should be characteristic for all types of alcohol. We are raising a new generation for which beer - also by introducing non-alcoholic versions - becomes a regular soft drink. At the same time, state institutions - PARPA, the Media Ethics Council or the Ministry of Health - are indifferent to these facts. The act on upbringing in sobriety, incompatible with reality, led to a situation in which we drink as much pure alcohol per head as in the times of the Polish People's Republic. Further proposals for legislation promoting beer will cause us to drink it even more, "adds Krzysztof Kouyoumdjian, CEDC External Relations Director.
According to the latest IBRiS research from November 2019, respondents are also not aware of the alcohol content in consumed alcoholic beverages - they believe that a shot of vodka contains a greater amount of pure alcohol than a half-litre bottle of beer - meanwhile a 50 ml glass of vodka contains less pure alcohol (16 g) than 0.5 l bottle of beer (20 g). Lack of knowledge causes greater tolerance for the consumption of beer by minors and driving a car after drinking a beer.
Changing the style of alcohol consumption in Poland for the benefit of weaker alcohols - the main goal of beneficial treatment of beer in the Act on Upbringing in Sobriety and Counteracting Alcoholism of 1982 - was achieved, but did not reduce the irresponsible alcohol consumption. According to the latest research, harmful impact on health directly depends on the amount of pure alcohol consumed, and not on the drink it is consumed in.
The Association of Employers of the Polish Spirit Industry asks the government for a thorough analysis of the structure of alcohol consumption by Poles, and on its basis to develop a universal program to combat the harmful and risky consumption of alcohol - beer, wine and spirits.