Jennings: Lessons to learn from Czech spirits scandal

By Tony Jennings

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Whisky Vodka

Jennings: "Imagine the field day the health professionals would have had with such an event on these shores"
Jennings: "Imagine the field day the health professionals would have had with such an event on these shores"
I think most of the people in our business will have at least heard of the spirits-lacing scandal in the Czech Republic — the home of Budvar — where cheap vodka and rum laced with methyl-alcohol sold from street stalls has killed 20 people in the course of two weeks and blinded a number more.

It’s nice to be able to report, however, that the Czech authorities have acted with their usual energy and so far detained 22 people suspected of being involved in this life-threatening scam.

They also imposed a ban on the sale and serving of all spirits with more than 20% alcohol content while police and customs officers search for the source of the contaminated drink and its distribution network with a view to getting it all out of the system.

The Czech Government makes no bones about the fact that it wants the spirits ban lifted quickly as it collects £2.5m a month from taxes on hard liquor sales and a long-term ban would damage the economy.

This statement impressed me greatly due to its pragmatic nature and the absence of the emotive cant and humbug, and anti-drinks industry hyperbole, that one suspects a response to a similar situation in this country would have provoked.

I’m sorry for the people who have been killed and maimed by this disgraceful business but I’m glad it didn’t happen here. Imagine the field day the health professionals would have had with such an event on these shores.

These followers of what CPL Training’s Paul Chase (a voice of reason I much admire) calls the “medical temperance ideology” would have been rejoicing. Like the self-appointed godly folk of the 17th century, they would have been proclaiming that the Lord in his Providence had delivered their enemies (that’s us) into their hands.

The affair has also brought home to me what a difference there is between the Czech health establishment and ours.

The Czech health minister declared at once that he was urgently looking for ways of easing the nationwide ban on the sales of hard liquor as soon as possible and his ministry has already fielded a few ideas for discussion.

Could you imagine anything so common-sensical happening here? In your dreams. I doubt that even the powerful Scotch whisky lobby could crack
that one.

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