Amid a recent string of nineteen deaths attributed to methanol poisoning, the government of the Czech Republic has categorically banned the sale of all alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of 20 percent or greater. On top of these latest deaths, dozens of other people have been hospitalized, some in critical condition after drinking vodka and rum laced with methanol.
The ban, which was announced last Friday by Health Minister Leos Heger, went into effect immediately and applies nationwide to all possible sales locations, including restaurants, hotels, bars, stores, and the internet. This new ban comes on the heels of a previous ban in which kiosks and markets were forbidden from selling spirits with an alcohol content of greater than 30 percent. That measure ultimately proved ineffective, however, because “an absolute majority” of people who have recently been poisoned bought the toxic alcohol in restaurants, bars and stores.
Methanol is mainly used for industrial purposes, but nefarious criminal networks have been known to misuse it in their efforts to illegally produce and sell cheap liquor that is impossible to distinguish from real drinking alcohol. Thousands of liters of illegal alcohol have already been seized and almost 20 people have been arrested, but police spokeswoman Stepanka Zatloukalova said Friday that the true source or sources for the worst methanol poisoning “in decades” are still unclear. Estimates state that about 20% of all liquor in restaurants sold across the Czech Republic is illegally produced on the black market
Despite the problem appearing to be largely centered in just the northeastern Czech Republic, businesses across the country are being hurt by the government’s sweeping action. The indefinite duration of the ban is making this prohibition even harder to swallow for local businesses. In Prague, restaurant manager Jonathan Weinstein said the financial loss associated with a short ban may be easily absorbed, however, if it “were to last a month or two, of course, it’s a big problem.” Petr Pavlik, chairman of a Czech union of spirits producers also weighed in, explaining that the government’s action will take its toll on legitimate producers as well
In light of the indefinite duration of this ban, what effect is it likely to have on businesses which depend on the sale of alcohol to turn a profit? Aside from a nationwide ban, what else could the Czech Republic, or any other government, do to curb the production of unsafe, illegal liquor while still allowing businesses to go on as usual? Is an outright ban on the sale of this liquor appropriate government action or is it too paternalistic? Should government officials simply have warned the public of the danger and taken no further action?
I understand why they are instituting a ban but there are other options. They could institute alcohol checks, a program that has officials go around to restaurants and make sure that there are legitimate receipts for the alcohol purchased, and only from reputable companies. If anyone is found with alcohol purchases from the black market they could institute extremely high fines possibly making the cheap purchases not worth the risk. The ban on alcohol means nothing unless they have a process in place for monitoring sales. They could take these resources, assuming they have them, and implement a fine and check system. Unfortunately, with a ban, it will force more people to go to the black market if no one can get alcohol legally at the moment. I feel like the ban, if not just short term will not have the desired results they are looking for.
An outright prohibition of alcohol is asinine. It did not work when we did it in the 1920s and it will not work now. The reason is people like alcohol and they will obtain it illegally, just like Americans did, if they cannot buy it from a store. Those are simple facts.
I think the best way to handle the problem is to inform the public. Because we can roughly calculate the rate of absorption and elimination of alcohol by a person we can roughly calculate the time in which the alcohol was consumed. With that information we can create a timetable and determine where the alcohol was bought or consumed. Once we determine who is responsible for selling the illegal alcohol a warning must be placed outside the establishment alerting the public that illegal alcohol was sold there and it caused injury/ death to an individual. If the government needs to, it can even fine the store/ restaurant to help offset the cost of implementing the program. The only way for the store/ restaurant/ hotel to have the warning removed is to present proof disproving them as the responsible entity. If the problem becomes repetitive the store will be closed permanently.
The benefit to this method is it places the burden on the store/ restaurant to disprove their involvement as opposed to the government to prove the possession of illegal alcohol. It allows the public to “vote with their wallets” in that if they want to run the risk of buying potentially lethal alcohol they have done so knowingly. Which I doubt the public is willing to do. And, with the implementation of fines the program pays for itself creating a win for public safety, a win for taxpayers who will not have to pay more to fund more government programs and a win for happy hour!
Distinguishing which is legally or illegally produced alcohol is really a problem, yet the alcohol ban will really affect those entity who’s businesses runs with alcohol. Maybe a legal action like a permit that ensures the safety and assurance of the alcohol being sold. Many people consumes alcohol really, whether the risks are at high stakes they do not mind it these are people that are are mentally and physically abusing alcohol for themselves. What about them? Banning alcohol might help these people but they may still do some under the table purchasing. Are there actions like alcoholism recovery program that are offered across countries will be implemented also?