Ana Gabriela Verotti Farah

Ana Gabriela Verotti Farah

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Alcohol Consumption in Brazil

Ana Gabriela Verotti Farah

Ana Gabriela Verotti Farah

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Brazil is not on the list of countries drinking the most alcohol, but the consumption between inhabitants is considerably high. In this article, you will learn more about drinking alcohol in Brazil

The World Health Organization did extensive research of the world's alcohol consumption. Data, collected from 2003 to 2005 and released in a 2011 report, showed that Brazil's consumption stays between 7,5 and 9,99L per capita, which is considered medium to high.

Events such as Carnival contribute to increased consumption. Besides local consumption, it is estimated that almost one million tourists come to the country to attend the festival, and 400 million liters of beer are consumed during the period.


The beverage which Brazilians drink the most, annually, is beer. Together with draft beers, it counts for 61% of the total consumption in the country, followed by wine (25%), spirits (12%) and ice drinks (2%). Among the spirits, the most consumed is cachaça, followed by whiskey and rum.

A research study released in April 2013 showed that alcohol consumption has increased 31,1% in 6 years, having a special increase among women and young people. According to the 2º Levantamento Nacional de Álcool e Drogas, Lenad, a data collection survey about alcohol and drugs made by researchers of the federal university of São Paulo, Unifesp, even though half of the Brazilian population doesn't drink alcoholic beverages, there's been an 20% increase in consumption of these drinks by the other half of the population.

Also, the study pointed out that alcohol dependence reaches 11,7 million people in Brazil, and that 56% of all alcoholic drinks sold in the country are consumed by only 20% of the citizens who drink. Consumption among women also increased: from 29% in 2006 to 39% in 2012, which represents a 34,5% rise.

Two of the possible reasons for the large amounts of alcohol consumed are the increase in family income and the economy rising. This also explains the high alcohol consumption among young people from higher social classes, verified in more research from Unifesp, made by Cebrid or Centro Brasileiro de Informações sobre Drogas Psicotrópicas, the Brazilian center of information about psychotropic drugs. They established a profile of a drinker as a young rich man who studies in private schools and has a low perception of punishment – which means that parents don't take any measures when they see their sons drinking.

That is also because some parents don't even know that their children are trying alcohol before the legally permissible age of 18, and because some of them “encourage” their kids to drink even when they are still young, not considering it a problem if the kid takes a sip of an alcoholic beverage. Cebrid's research showed that any alcohol experimentation between kids who are less than 12 years old increases the chance of abusive alcohol consumption when they become teenagers.

If You Drink, Don't Drive

Brazil has high rates of car accidents caused by the consumption of alcohol, and a lot of them usually end up with people getting killed due to other people's recklessness. Alcohol is linked to 21% of traffic crashes in Brazil, and 1 out of 5 accident victims assisted in the country's Emergency Units had drunk alcoholic beverages before the ride. This number has a huge impact on the urgency and emergency services of SUS, the national health system.

A Ministry of Health's research from 2011 showed that inebriated people are more prone to hospitalization and death due to the accident. Over 47 thousand people were consulted for this research in all state capitals and in the Federal District, which had 58,3% of all violence victims that had drunk alcohol, the biggest proportion in Brazil.

From all the victims of crashes, 22,3% of the drivers, 21,4% of the pedestrians and 17,7% of the passengers presented symptoms of drunkenness, and most (39,3%) were between 20 and 39 years old.

Lei Seca

Bloomberg Philanthropies compiled a list of the 10 countries that, together, account for more than 600000 traffic deaths per year, which is almost half of the 1,3 million deaths registered annually. Brazil alone is responsible for 35000 deaths, the same number as Russia, and both countries only lose to India – with over 196000 deaths – and China – with over 220000 deaths. Egypt, Mexico, Vietnam, Kenya, Turkey and Cambodia also compose the ranking.

Aiming to decrease the number of accidents caused by drunk drivers in Brazil, the federal government instituted in June of 2008 a law that increases the inspection and punishment for drunk driving. Commonly referred to as Lei Seca – a dry law, different from the old American one – it makes the inspection of drivers stricter in the country, punishing people who are caught having alcohol in their blood when driving.

It's considered a crime if the driver has 6dg (60g) or more of alcohol per liter of blood. The maximum amount of alcohol allowed per liter of blood was 2dg (20g) until January 2013, when the law was changed and any sign of alcohol in the blood test was considered unacceptable and punishable.

Teste do Bafômetro

By the time it was established, the law determined that a driver could be punished if intoxication signals were perceived or if there were witnesses proving that the driver was drunk. When the law was reformed, Brazilian justice determined that drivers would only be punished if they were caught with the determined amount of alcohol per liter of blood – and that would be known through a test.

Thus, drivers are subjected not only to a blood test but also to a breathalyzer test, known in Brazil as “teste do bafômetro”, in order to check the alcohol levels in the blood. The maximum limit, that was of 0,1 mg, changed to 0,05mg in January 2013. The penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol is BRL 1915,40, plus the surrender of the driver's license, the suspension of the right to drive for 12 months and vehicle impoundment until a driver authorized to drive comes to take the car.

If the driver gets involved in a traffic crime, the tolerance amount allowed is 0,34mg of alcohol per liter of air or 6dg per liter of blood. The prison sentence due to this crime varies from 6 months to 3 years; plus, drivers have to pay a fine and either have their license suspended temporarily, or not be allowed to obtain a license anymore.

What If I Don't Take the Test?

However, drivers aren't obliged to take the breathalyzer test, since it would be a way of providing proof against themselves. There were cases of famous Brazilian people who were stopped by the police on the roads and refused to take the test, as well as many other drivers who also didn't agree to take it.

Even so, drivers who refuse to take the test are obliged to pay a fine of BRL 957 and have their driver's license suspended for at least 5 days. They can also be taken to a police station, and if they present signs of drunkenness, they'll be subjected to a test made by IML or Instituto Médico Legal, the legal medical institute. In case the police officer decides to testify against the driver, the suspension of the license can reach 1 year.

The new version of the law also makes it possible to prove intoxication through alternative ways such as image or movie recording and recognition of signs of intoxication in motor skills.

The Ministério Público Federal, the federal public ministry, considers this punishment to be unconstitutional, taking as argument the fact that citizens are allowed to not incriminate themselves.