Note: Not fifty people down with methanol poisoning, and the authorities are banning strong drink across the whole Czech Republic. It’s like banning sex because a few people have caught the pox. It won’t work, of course. Like Slovakia, the country is awash in domestic slivovica. Since our own authorities are doubtless watching this exercise in prohibition, I call on the Czech people to respond as they always have to tyranny. SIG
Hard liquor ban is excessive, trade association says
17 September 2012
Prague, Sept 14 (CTK) – The complete ban on sale of spirits containing more than 20 percent of alcohol in the entire Czech Republic, declared by the Health Ministry Friday, is not adequate to the situation, Zdenek Juracka, president of the Czech Association of Trade and Tourism (SOCR), has told CTK.
The ban is counter-productive as people who will really want or need to buy spirits will always get it from illegal sources. But the measure must be obeyed and SOCR will inform its members about the ban rapidly, Juracka said.
The ministry issued the ban following a series of deaths caused by poisoning by methanol contained in spirits.
Juracka declined to estimate the amount of loss that brick-and mortar shops, hotels and restaurants will lose owing to the ban.
Retail chains started to remove hard alcohol from their shops immediately after the ban was announced.
This was confirmed to CTK by Libor Tomas, spokesman of the Globus hypermarkets, and Kaufland spokesman Michael Sperl, for example.
Tomas said spirits will be removed from Globus shops overnight.
Sperl said the Kaufland chain will respect the ban, but added it will last for some time before hard alcohol disappears from Kaufland shops as the chain has many outlets and some of them are open until late at night.
Supermarkets Billa have also suspended sale of hard alcohol.
“This is an extraordinary measure which we understand,” Billa CEO Jaroslaw Szczypka said.
The national air carrier has also stopped serving hard alcohol on its flights, Hana Hejskova, spokeswoman of aviation holding Cesky aeroholding, informed CTK.
A survey conducted this week by company Mag Consulting showed that restaurants’ sales would drop by 6 to 8 percent if a complete ban of spirits sale was introduced.
Petr Pavlik, CEO of the largest Czech spirits maker Stock Plzen and president of the Union of Alcohol Producers and Importers (UVDL), said he understands why the ban was imposed.
“The situation is really very serious. But we have to realise that the market that killed people was the black market, and that’s the only market that will be active now and thrive because people will want alcohol,” Pavlik said.
State authorities and expert circles should start a debate whose goal would be to create a short-term and long-term action plans under the guarantee of the government, Pavlik said.
He has proposed that customs officers, the Retail Inspection Office (COI), the State Agricultural and Food Inspection (SZPI), the ministries of health and finance and the UVDL take part in the discussion.
Spirits makers’ lost sales are not important now, Pavlik said. “It’s necessary to protect people,” he added.
The Food Chamber said Friday the introduction of an across-the board ban of spirits sale will harm honest producers and strengthen the black market. It pointed out that checks focus above all on legal producers.
Representatives of the food industry have proposed reduction or a complete ban of methanol imports to the country following a series of casualties by methanol poisoning.
The Health Ministry Friday completely banned with immediate effect the sale and serving of spirits containing more than 20 percent of alcohol across the entire territory of the Czech Republic because methanol poisonings have spread to further regions of the country.
The ban applies to all shops, restaurants, hotels and online stores. It could last for up to several weeks.
The measure has so far applied only to stalls and kiosks and to spirits with more than 30 percent of alcohol content.
Bootleg alcohol has already claimed 19 lives in the Czech Republic and almost 30 people have been hospitalised with serious health problems after having drunk tainted alcohol.