The consumption of illicit or noncommercial alcohol is widespread in central and eastern Europe (CEE) and contributes significantly to the region’s high levels of alcohol-related problems, according to a new report released today by the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP).
While illegal alcohol consumption in western Europe (WE) is relatively low, the report finds the level of noncommercial alcohol in CEE is so high that it renders statistics on official alcohol sales nearly useless.
“The extensive use of noncommercial alcohol takes an enormous toll on the health and welfare of people in central and eastern European countries,” says Yury Razvodovsky, MD, lead author and professor at Grodno State Medical University in Belarus. “The burden associated with problem drinking in this region is the highest in the world, and the prevalence of illicit alcohol is a major contributing factor.”
The report, Noncommercial Alcohol in Three Regions, says the high alcohol-related mortality in CEE countries is caused to a considerable degree by the extensive use of noncommercial alcohol.
The report defines noncommercial alcohol as traditional beverages produced for home consumption or limited local trade, counterfeit or unregistered products, and nonbeverage – or surrogate – alcohols.
Highlights from the report include:
- In Ukraine, unrecorded or noncommercial alcohol consumption exceeds recorded alcohol consumption (10.5 vs. 6.09 per capita consumption in liters, respectively)
- Noncommercial alcohol accounts for more than half of the total alcohol consumption in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, and Slovenia
- Noncommercial alcohol accounts for nearly half of the total alcohol consumption in Belarus, Croatia, Romania, and the Russian Federation
The report finds the main source of noncommercial alcohol is home production. Noncommercial drinks, while significantly cheaper than their commercial counterparts, may fall below quality standards for human consumption and may contain harmful impurities.
Higher levels of noncommercial consumption in CEE, compared to WE, may be the result of a lower standard of living and a lack of comprehensive and flexible alcohol policies in CEE.
The report concludes that strategies to reduce the prevalence of noncommercial alcohol in CEE should include cross-sector efforts by the government, NGOs, public health workers, and representatives of the alcohol industry.
The full report may be found at ICAP’s web site.
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