On 2 February 2010, Eurocare, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, organised a seminar on “The Social Cost of Alcohol: Passive drinking”. Hosted at the European Parliament, the event gathered a wide range of stakeholders.
The seminar was hosted by Ms Anna Hedh, S&D MEP, Sweden, who welcomed the numerous participants.
Mr Michel Craplet, Chairman of Eurocare, opened the presentations’ round by recalling the history of alcohol-related problems and their consideration.
Mr Hans Olav Fekjaer, Actis, of the Norwegian Policy Network on Alcohol and Drugs, presented the collateral damages resulting from alcohol, namely “passive drinking”. Indeed, alcohol use does not only impact on the drinkers themselves but also on their relatives, and particularly on children. Although data is still scarce on this topic, the speaker presented a range of problems linked to alcohol consumption in Denmark, for which the first data sets are available, as well as the USA, Canada and Australia. Generally, the problems consist of exacerbated physical and verbal violence, family problems and financial difficulties. However, changes were observed between countries and from one generation to another. The political will to protect people around drinkers is categorically bigger than to protect drinkers from themselves.
Ms Ceri Thompson, DG SANCO, then presented the actions undertaken at EU level in the field of alcohol, from the 2001 Council Recommendation to the first Progress Report on the implementation of the 2006 Strategy, published in September 2009. She concluded her presentation by emphasising the increasing convergence regarding Member States’ actions in tackling alcohol-related problems.
Mr Xavier Ferrer, Fundacion Salud y Comunidad, presented domestic violence behaviours that can result from drinking alcohol. He explained that through a decrease in self-control, a stimulation of mental aggressive pathologies, and a worsening of the difficulties to solve other violence- inducing mental disorders, alcohol consumption leads to physical or verbal aggression. He highlighted the necessity to develop further actions addressing this relationship. He then presented several national actions and developments in this field.
Mr Antonio Avenoso, European Transport Safety Council, highlighted the current status of drink-driving policies and the recommendations formulated by the ETSC: a common Blood Alcohol Content limit, enforcement of the existing legislation, and the use of alcolocks.
Ms Mira Roine, European Network for Children affected by Risky Environments within the family (ENCARE), presented the situation of children living in families with alcohol problems. Indeed, alcohol problems have an impact on the family role, on rituals and well-being, and in the long term also on children’s social, psychological and behavioural state. Aware of this reality and therefore also of the need for action, ENCARE developed the ChAPAPs project: Reducing Harm and Building Capacities for Children Affected by Parental Alcohol Problems in Europe. Mr Roine ended her presentation with a number of policy guidelines: a better recognition of the problem within governments, a more consistent political commitment, further development of services able to identify such situations, and reinforcement of current alcohol policies.
Dr Rudi Kohl of the FAS Policlinic in the Netherlands closed the presentations by providing a thorough explanation of the harm alcohol consumption does to unborn children. Studies have shown the negative effects of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome such as impairment, lower scores on standard tests of intelligence, nonverbal reasoning and poor language comprehension, and behavioral problems. He highlighted the fact that this 100% preventable disease is not a rare problem but rather part of a social problem which needs to be urgently tackled.
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Council Conclusions on Alcohol and Health