Brussels, 16 April 2008
EU Commissioner for Health, Androulla Vassiliou welcomed the commitments made by 46 businesses and non-governmental organisations to curb alcohol abuse at the European Alcohol and Health Forum in Brussels, today. This initiative brings together stakeholders to commit to concrete actions. To date, the forum has received a total of 78 commitments from companies and health groups ranging from midwives and doctors associations, European temperance societies, public health NGOs to Heineken International, Bacardi-Martini and Moët Hennessy to retailers including the Delhaize group and Ahold N.V. .
EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: "I am impressed by the number and scope of the commitments by Forum members within these first 10 months of the Forum's existence. We shall be ambitious; more can and should be done to achieve results. We need to continue this good collaborative effort and I look forward to seeing these commitments translated into concrete action. ". The Commissioner stressed that she particularly expects the alcoholic beverages industry to market their products responsibly, and not to target adolescents. "All relevant stakeholders are called upon to contribute to changing attitudes and behaviours, especially among young people. We simply cannot accept that the inappropriate use of alcohol damages the health – and destroys the education and employment perspectives – of so many young men and women ".
Forum Members' commitments
To date 78 commitments have been received from 46 Forum members and are publicly available on DG SANCO website. In addition, a dedicated search engine will soon be available on the website with a built in implementation and monitoring framework. This will enable the evaluation of successful initiatives, which can be used as models of best practice. In order to become a member of the Forum, a business or an NGO has to submit a written commitment to take action with objectives and information on how the results will be monitored and evaluated.
Platform for action
The European Alcohol and Health Forum is a common platform for action. Its members are economic operators and NGO's that are willing to devote time and resources to adopt meaningful actions to prevent alcohol-related harm. EU Member States, European Institutions, the WHO and the International Organisation of Vine and Wine participate as observers.
The Forum meets twice a year and is chaired by the Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection. The Forum has established two Task Forces (on Marketing Communication and on Youth-specific aspects of alcohol) which have already produced recommendations for further action by the Forum members. The Forum will also establish a Science Group, which – at the request of the Forum – will provide scientific advice and guidance on matters under discussion.
In order to give interested non-member bodies and organisations from the EU and beyond an occasion to follow the work of the Forum, and make their opinions known, the European Alcohol and Health Forum convenes an “Open Forum” once per year. The first meeting of the Open Forum takes place on 17 April 2008.
Health effects of alcohol-related harm
It is estimated that harmful alcohol use kills approximately 200,000 people a year in the EU. Harmful alcohol consumption is responsible for one in four deaths among young men aged 15-29 and one in 10 deaths of women in the same age group.
According to the special Eurobarometer on Alcohol published in 2007, one in 10 Europeans usually drink five or more drinks in one session, which is the widely used definition of binge drinking for men. This figure was particularly high among the youngest respondents. Almost one in five young people in the 15-24 age group (19%) drink five or more alcoholic beverages in one session.
Therefore, it is no surprise that the vast majority of Europeans, according to the same Eurobarometer, would welcome measures to protect vulnerable groups of society and to reduce death by road accidents.
On 24 October 2006, the European Commission adopted a Communication setting
out an EU strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol related harm.
The priorities identified in the Communication were: to protect young people and
children; reduce injuries and deaths from alcohol-related road accidents;
prevent harm among adults and reduce the negative impact on the economy; raise
awareness of the impact on health of harmful alcohol consumption; and help
gather reliable statistics.