The basis of the health- and fiscal policy-oriented administration of alcohol is the control of its import, manufacture and trade. An important instrument for consumption reduction is the taxation of alcohol. Supporting measures for implementation of the legal mandate include advertising restrictions and the legal provisions regarding protection of children and young persons. What all these state regulations have in common is that they aim to reduce alcohol consumption.
Anyone manufacturing spirits or trading in them needs a licence issued by the SAB. Private persons do not require a licence for the commercial import of spirits. Like producers, however, importers are required to keep accounts of their business activities and disclose the business documents for inspection to the authorities. Inspection of these business documents allows the SAB to fulfil its legal mandate of taxing spirits.
The taxation of spirits entails that they are sold at a higher price, which is intended to reduce alcohol consumption. At the same time, taxation makes a contribution to covering the social costs arising from alcohol consumption. The largest share of the net revenue, namely 90%, flows to old-age, survivors and disability insurance (AHV/IV) and therefore is for the benefit of everyone. The remaining 10% flows to the cantons, which must use these funds to combat the causes and effects of addiction.
Advertising restrictions for spirits are one of the supporting measures to reduce alcohol consumption. The Alcohol Law provides a whole series of restrictions concerning the advertising of spirits. The SAB monitors compliance with these provisions. The SAB advises advertisers in regard to spirits and explains the legal requirements.
Protection of children and young people
Alcohol and foodstuffs legislation contains several provisions to protect children and young people, consistent compliance with which is the responsibility of the SAB and its partners. Because of the increasing consumption of spirits, especially vodka and whiskey, among young people, efforts in this field are of particular importance.
The rapid and full elimination of import barriers for foreign spirits as well as harmonisation of tax rates for domestic and foreign spirits have led to a radical structural change in the Swiss spirits market. This structural change has dramatic consequences for the domestic spirits industry.
As part of the total revision of the Alcohol Law of 1932, a new policy governing spirits will therefore be pursued. The main goal of this total revision is to liberalise the ethanol market and to eliminate the federal monopoly in that industry. As part of these efforts, privatisation of Alcosuisse, a profit centre of the SAB, is being considered. Furthermore an appropriate framework for domestic spirit production is to be created, part and parcel of which are adjustments to the proven and effective alcohol prevention provisions. Finally the administrative procedures will be optimised, which will allow financial expenditures for the Swiss Alcohol Board and taxpayers to be reduced.