Drunk in Charge of a Pencil

April Fool’s was last month, so rest assured, this feature is not a hoax. B&C are going to take you on a world tour of some of the weirdest alcohol laws. Perhaps the statute books in some countries are in need of a 21st century refresh!

It would be hard to argue with some legalisation around alcohol, given that it can damage your health if taken in excess and causes changes in behaviour. Arguing with laws around the legal age limit for drinking alcohol is fruitless - it clearly makes sense. Laws governing drinking and driving - no brainer, but it is truly amazing just how many bizarre alcohol laws remain on the statute books around the globe. What were people thinking at the time? Clearly some are to do with money; a good old fashioned perk or a bribe depending on where you were standing at the time. For example, here in the UK, it is traditional for any decent size Naval ship that visits London to deliver a barrel of rum to the Constable of the Tower of London. This is known as the Constable’s Dues. That is a decent perk in anyone’s book.

Saving you from yourself is a decent enough reason, but the French take this to another level when they insist that you carry your own breathalyser if you plan on driving after drinking. One does have to question whether or not this is a law that is really enforced. Is the plan that you check yourself before you drive? Penalties for drinking and driving range from points on your licence to jail depending on the severity of the offence, but in El Salvador, they take things to a whole new level. Their top level penalty is death by firing squad. This would definitely give you pause for thought when weighing up if you could get away with a half. The Germans, naturally, have a more rational approach to penalties and if you are found cycling whilst drunk you can be ordered to under go a psychological assessment. B0ttles & Cans are based in Cambridge and are very familiar with cycling mayhem. You may not think you can cause a lot of damage being drunk in charge of a bicycle, but you can cause cars to crash because of poor judgement. We’ve covered cars and bicycles, but in Scotland, they have to cover the possibilities of being drunk and riding a cow. There are the obvious dangers of being pursued by the amorous bull, cow-pat chaos and stopping at traffic lights is a problem when your vehicle has no brakes. Clearly, a law was required to put an end to this madness.

Governments making money and/or saving you from drinking to excess is the rationale for some laws. In Sweden, beer that is stronger than 3.5% ABV can only be bought in government shops. The Systembolaget are government booze shops, with highly regulated opening hours and eye watering prices. They close at 7 p.m. on weekdays, 3 p.m. on Saturdays, and don’t open at all on Sundays. You have to be 20 years old to buy alcohol in Sweden , but only 18 years old to drink it.

In Thailand when you can buy your booze is regulated in a bid to reduce excessive consumption. Alcohol is off limits between midnight and 11am and 2pm to 5pm. Sydney, Australia have also taken measures to tackle excessive drinking in the city and implemented the following; it is illegal to serve shots after midnight, serve alcohol in a glass after midnight, serve four drinks at one time after midnight, or serve more than two drinks per person after 3:00 a.m. In the Indian state of Maharashtra, you are required to have a drinking licence issued by the Government Civil Hospital. This is taking monitoring of personal responsibility to a whole new level. It begs the question; do they have a booming trade in fake licences? We have all become too used to access all hours since laws were relaxed in the UK and with shops open 24/7 access to alcohol has never been easier. Maybe it is worth considering the ways other countries have gone about trying to regulate to protect their citizens given that so many seem unable to self regulate.

Protecting the nation from your drunken decision making skills is probably a good a thing, especially on election day. In Turkey, you can’t buy alcohol on election day - this is hopefully to make sure everyone makes sound political decisions; but what about those of us who need alcohol to survive anything that involves politics. Frankly Brexit has turned a lot of people to the booze as an effort to survive the situation. America also had similar bans, but its roots were apparently about ensuring the candidates were not plying the undecided with booze on Election day to sway them. Maybe this is the reason for the indecision in the House of Commons - they do have subsidised booze after all? From Colombia, to Peru, many Latin American countries remain very rigorous in their election day booze bans, in fact many go beyond just election day. For example, in Argentina, the ban begins at 8pm the night before and runs through into the day after. They must want to be very sure that voters do not have a skin full the night before and put the X in the wrong box due to a major hangover.

That leaves us with the plain weird and out there laws that should have been dispensed with a long time ago. In Bolivia married women can only drink one glass of wine in public. Apparently Bolivian married women can’t be trusted not to flirt with men other than their husbands if they drink more than one glass of wine. The less said about this the better - moving on. Having previously mentioned Sottish law, it would be quite wrong to leave out the strange and outdated law that lays down a fine of two beers if you are caught wearing boxers beneath your kilt. Think yourself lucky, prudish Scotsmen, if you had been in Carry on Up The Khyber, you would have brought down the British Empire. This one is just daft and we have to share it. In Australia a woman was fined for crushing beer cans with her breast. It is difficult to believe that there is a specific law about breasts and beer cans, but having seen the clip of her doing this, it is not exactly offensive (the offending breast was fully clothed).

There are plenty of other oddities out there; we have but scratched the surface, but frankly ending with the image of beer can recycling, boob style is as good a place as any. There are a lot of myths and legends around these laws - some are the stories that tourists are told, but some are absolutely the law of the land. If you have spotted a blooper or if you know of any corkers that need sharing with the B&C community, email ed@cammag.co.uk


McKirdy, T. (2019) ‘Why You Can’t Buy Alcohol on Election Days in Some Countries’, Vinepair.com, https://vinepair.com/articles/election-day-alcohol-dry-laws/ - accessed on 03-03-2019

Oliveto, J. (2015) ‘17 Weirdest Drinking Laws Around The World’, thrillist.com, https://www.thrillist.com/vice/17-weird-drinking-laws-from-around-the-world-crazy-liquor-laws - accessed on 28-03-2019

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