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Eurocare: Is the EU drinking its future away?

Today over 300 representatives from Health Ministries, the European Institutions, public health experts and concerned stakeholders have gathered in Brussels to call on the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his team to take actions to prevent and reduce the burden of alcohol on European societies.

The European Union has the highest rate of alcohol consumption in the world (10.2 litres of pure alcohol per person) and alcohol was responsible for 1 in 7 male deaths and 1 in 13 female deaths in the group aged 15–64 years, meaning that 120,000 people died prematurely in 2013.1

Alcohol is the third main contributory factor to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), it is a cause of some 60 different types of disease, including many cancers, liver disease, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal conditions. There is a clear causal link between alcohol and cancer – 10% cancers in men and 3% of total cancers in women are directly attributable to alcohol.2

Beyond its health consequences, the harmful use of alcohol inflicts significant social and economic losses. In total, the societal costs of alcohol in the EU for 2010 were an estimated €155.8 billion.3

‘The problems of alcohol-related harm can be seen throughout European societies. A comprehensive approach to dealing with these harms could save many thousands of lives and constitutes an investment into the sustainability our health systems.’ said Mariann Skar from the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, organisers of the 6th European Alcohol Policy Conference.

Investing in alcohol-prevention

The European Union Alcohol Strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol related harm was designed for the period 2006-2012. The conference will highlight that the absence of an up-to-date EU Alcohol Strategy based on the latest evidence and in line with societal changes (for example, the move of alcohol advertising from traditional to new media) poses a real threat to reducing alcohol related harm in Europe.

The two day conference will highlight the broad spectrum of harm caused by alcohol to individual health, others around them and to society as a whole. The 6th European Alcohol Policy conference will also serve as platform to launch the European Alcohol Policy Alliance’s recommendations document for future EU Alcohol Strategy and a Call for action for such a strategy.

The conference is touching on some of the most contentious areas in terms of regulating alcohol:

Why should alcoholic beverages be exempted from the obligation to list their ingredients, unlike all other food and drink products?

What impact could international treaties such as TTIP have on the ability of Member States to implement effective alcohol policies?

Should the price of alcoholic beverages be adjusted to deal with their harms, such as a minimum unit price or taxation?

How should the online marketing of alcohol be regulated effectively?

These and many other issues of how best to reduce harm done by alcohol will be discussed over the coming two days in Brussels.