***PRESS COMMUNIQUE***

Brussels, 25 November 2009

A coalition of twelve European public health and safety umbrella organisations have launched a call for action to reduce alcohol-related harm in Europe. In advance of a meeting of the EU Ministers for Health, where the Swedish Presidency will present proposals for a stronger EU alcohol policy, the coalition calls for concrete action on the pricing, availability, access and marketing of alcoholic beverages.

The European Public Health Alliance, a signatory of the statement, has high expectations from the Swedish Presidency’s proposals. EPHA calls on Member states and the Commission to use all the tools at their disposal to ensure that there is a genuine commitment in Europe to reducing the harmful impact of excessive alcohol consumption at individual and population levels.

Alcohol remains high on the political agenda. Health experts and civil society actors are allied in their conviction that the current state of play is unacceptable. There is conclusive evidence to show that excessive and harmful consumption of alcohol contributes significantly to the burden of disease in Europe. Furthermore there is also evidence to demonstrate the clear link between alcohol consumption and excessive injury and third-party harm.

WHO Europe has produced comprehensive reports documenting the evidence for action and has also outlined effective and cost-effective interventions to reduce alcohol related harm. The statement by the coalition of European public health and safety umbrella organisations reminds EU policy-makers that they have a legal responsibility to protect the health all European citizens, enshrined in the Treaty. The coalition calls on the new Commission, the Council and the Parliament to take the WHO recommendations seriously and specifically address the underlying drivers of alcohol-related harm that lie beyond the remit of the health divisions.

"The current policy framework at a European level is wholly inadequate," said Monika Kosinska, EPHA Secretary General. "We know what the problems are and we know how to tackle them effectively. European policy-makers have an opportunity to change the paradigm with regards to alcohol."

"The opportunity to put in place tighter regulation must not be wasted," she continued. "Action on the promotion and pricing of alcoholic beverages is imperative. This must not be weakened by the concerns of economic operators and other policy sectors. Excessive consumption of alcohol has a significant public health impact across the whole population and political investment to reduce this harm is an investment in the health of the European Union."

With the Commission having recently released a progress report on the EU Alcohol Strategy, the Council is expected to adopt Council Conclusions on alcohol and health. Earlier in 2009, the Science Group of the Alcohol and Health Forum published its opinion on the impact of marketing communication on the volume and pattern of alcohol consumption among young people. The report found that commercial communications increase the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol and encourages those that already drink to drink more. Elsewhere, the Scottish government and the Chief Medical Officer for England have both made proposals for a minimum pricing initiative on alcoholic beverages.

***NOTES FOR EDITORS****

EPHA is the European Platform bringing together public health organisations representing professional groups, patients, health promotion and disease specific NGOs and other health associations.

For further information

Eurosafe

Eurocare

Alcohol and Health Forum

Last modified on November 30 2009.