EASL supports the Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm

By EASL EU Public Affairs November 10,2015

Each year in November, the Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm (AWARH) highlights the negative effect of alcohol on the individual and society as a whole, and calls for more effective policy actions. AWARH was established in 2013 by like-minded organisations and for the third time EASL is happy to play an active role in raising awareness at an EU level about the need to tackle alcohol related harm.

This year’s AWARH composes of:

  • Social media campaign via thunderclap. If you would like to support AWARH please just share your support
  • Policy event in the European Parliament (Brussels) on 17th November, 12h00 – 14h00. For information please visit the website. To register please email: Aleksandra.kaczmarek@easloffice.eu
  • Health attaché meeting on 20th November, where EASL will be presenting recent policy developments at the EU level.

Coinciding with the AWARH2015, Professor Nick Sheron published a paper in Journal of Hepatology highlighting the cost-effective policy actions which would greatly contribute to the reduction of liver disease.

As pointed out by Prof Sheron, the link between alcohol consumption and liver mortality is clear cut. So is the evidence base for alcohol control measures aimed at reducing population alcohol consumption[1]. They have been summarised by the World Health Organisation and most recently by the Organisation for Economic Co- Operation and Development (OECD)[2].

The most effective and cost effective measures are:

  • Incremental above inflation tax increases
  • Comprehensive restrictions and bans on alcohol marketing
  • Restrictions to the availability of retailed alcohol
  • A minimum price for alcohol
  • Low level interventions from clinicians

Limbo in the EU alcohol policy

Unfortunately, alcohol policy at the EU level seems to be a victim of the new European Commission’s policy towards health.

Despite the fact that health and social security is the fourth most important issue for Europeans[3], the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker has failed to prioritise it.

For a start the EU Alcohol Strategy, designed for period 2006-2012, has not been renewed. In 2014 the European Commission initialised and published a non-binding Action Plan on Youth Drinking and on Heavy Episodic Drinking (Binge Drinking) (2014-2016).

This document proposes a set of voluntary actions which could be taken by the national administrations, alcohol producers or public health community. However, this document is non-binding and no mechanism has been developed for monitoring.

Secondly, alcohol labelling remains one of the major issues not tackled at the EU level. The European Commission is perfectly positioned to indicate what information should be provided to consumers across the EU. However, back in 2011 European institutions exempted alcohol producers from the obligation to provide nutritional information and ingredients listing.

 By December last year (2014) the European Commission was supposed to produce a report examining the situation. To date this report has not been produced and the European Commission has remained non-committal on the future of alcohol labelling. It remains to be seen if in the future consumers will be able to tell how much sugar and calories are in their drinks.

 Similarly, the Directive setting minimum rates for alcohol excise duties (not changed for inflation since 1992) was set to be revised back in 2014. It was one of the first items scrapped by the Juncker Commission in its new plans.

 

 Europe the heaviest drinking region in the world

The European Union has the highest rate of alcohol consumption in the world (10.2 litres of pure alcohol per person age 15+ per person per year). Harmful consumption of alcohol rose from the eighth to fifth leading cause of death and disability worldwide between 1990 and 2010. Alcohol is the leading risk factor for ill health and premature death among 25- 59 year olds, the core of the working age population. The cost of excessive alcohol consumption is estimated at 155.8 billion EUR per year.

 

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 [1] Anderson P, Baumberg B. Alcohol in Europe: A public health perspective. EU Health and

Consumer Protection Directorate General; 2007.

WHO. Scaling up action of noncommunicable diseases: how much will it cost. 2011.

Academy of Medical Sciences. Calling time - The nation's drinking as a major health issue.

Academy of Medical Sciences, London; 2004 Jan 3.

Babor TF, Caetano R, Casswell S, Edwards G, Giesbrecht N, Graham K, et al. Alcohol: No

Ordinary Commodity - Research and Public Policy. Oxford and London: Oxford University Press; 2003.

[2] OECD. Tackling Harmful Alcohol Use: Economics and Public Health Policy. 2015

[3] Eurobarometer 2014  Public opinion in the European Union