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Policy Issues

EU Alcohol Strategy

On 24 October 2006, the European Commission adopted the long awaited Communication setting out a strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol-related harm (EU Alcohol Strategy). The EU Alcohol strategy has been awaited since in June 2001 the Council invited the Commission to put forward proposals for a comprehensive Community strategy aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm to complement national policies.

Alcohol Policy and the WHO

During the Sixty-third session of the World Health Assembly, held in Geneva in May 2010, the 193 Member States of WHO reached an historical consensus on a global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol by adopted resolution WHA63.13. The adopted resolution and endorsed strategy gives guidance to both Member States and to the WHO Secretariat on ways to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.

Follow the process for implementing the WHA 61.4 resolution and preparing a draft global strategy to reduce harmful use of alcohol here

For more information, go to the WHO's global website or the WHO's regional European website.


Alcohol marketing ranges from mass media advertising to sponsorship of events, product placement, internet, merchandise, usage of other products connected with alcohol brands, social networks etc. In 2009, the Science Group of the European Alcohol and Health Forum produced a report on marketing which reviewed a number of studies regarding impact of marketing on the volume and patterns of drinking alcohol. It concluded that alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that young people will start to drink alcohol, and that among those who have started to drink, marketing increases the their drinking levels in terms of both amount and frequency.

Alcohol advertising was first regulated at EU level by the EU's "Television without Frontiers" Directive, which was adopted in 1989 and revised for the first time in 1997.

On 13 December 2005, the Commission proposed a new revision in order to take account of rapid technological changes and developments in the audiovisual services market such as video on demand, mobile television and audiovisual services via digital television.

On 24 May 2007, the European Parliament and the Council agreed on the proposal. The new Directive on Audiovisual Media Services entered into force on 19 December 2007. Member States have until 19 December 2009 to incorporate its provisions into national law.


Product labels can serve a number of purposes, providing information about the product to the consumer, enticing the consumer to buy the product and warning consumers of dangers and health risks from the product.

Listing the ingredients contained in a particular beverage alerts the consumer to the presence of any potentially harmful or problematic substances. Even more importantly, providing the nutritional information such as calorie content allows consumer to monitor their diets better and makes it easier to keep a healthy lifestyle.

Pricing and Taxation

Despite extensive evidence that raising alcohol prices reduces overall consumption levels, the trend is that the real price of alcoholic beverages and the real value of alcohol taxation has been decreasing.

The real value of the EU alcohol minimum excise duty rates, and of Member States alcohol taxation, has decreased since the mid 1990s in most EU countries. In some countries alcoholic drinks have become more affordable by 50%.

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the leading known cause of birth defects and developmental disorders in the EU.

It affects about 1% of people in the EU27 (i.e. nearly 5 million people) and is the only one that is 100% preventable.

Alcohol Related Diseases

In Europe alcohol is the 3rd leading risk factor for disease and death.

Alcohol is a cause of some 60 different types of disease and condition, including:

- cancers
- liver disease
- cardiovascular diseases
- gastrointestinal conditions
- immunological disorders
- lung diseases
- skeletal and muscular diseases
- reproductive disorders
- pre- natal harm, including and increased risk of prematurity and low birth


Alcohol and Trade

Alcohol is today the third leading risk factor contributing to the global burden of disease (DALYs- Disability Adjusted Life Years) and is the 8th risk factor for death. Alcohol use has a unique geographical and sex pattern: it exacts the largest toll on men in Africa, in the middle- income countries in the Americas, and in some high- income countries.

Road Safety

Within the European Commission's strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm, reducing injuries and deaths from alcohol-related road accidents is a main priority. The EU aims to support Member States in their efforts to reduce road accidents and fatalities as part of the strategy's focus on alcohol as a lifestyle and health determinant.

Alcohol and the Workplace

Harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption is one of the main causes of premature death and avoidable disease and furthermore has a negative impact on working capacity. Alcohol-related absenteeism or drinking during working hours have a negative impact on work performance, competitiveness and productivity. Often forgotten is the impact of drinkers on the productivity of people other than the drinker. Moreover, about 20 to 25% of all accidents at work involve intoxicated people injuring themselves and other victims, including co-workers.

Eurocare is one of the partners in the European Workplace and Alcohol (EWA) project, and please visit the EWA webpage for more indebt background and information on alcohol and the workplace.


Alcohol is one of the world’s leading health risks; use of alcohol is especially harmful for younger age groups. Europe is the heaviest drinking region of the world. Consumption levels in some countries are around 2.5 times higher than the global average. Alcohol harm is disproportionately high among young people (115 000 deaths per year) alarmingly 43% among 15-16 year old European students reported heavy binge drinking during the past 30 days and alcohol is the single biggest cause of death among young men of age 16 to 24.

Family and Children

Whilst million of families within the EU are affected by the problem it is difficult to find an accurate assessment of its size. Perceptions on alcohol problems vary from culture to culture and, among those affected, it can often take the ‘character of a shameful secret’. It is being estimated that 23 million people in the EU are dependent on alcohol, which consequently results in 9 million children and young people in the EU living with at least one parent addicted to alcohol. Many of these children are raised in families with alcohol addiction and are exposed to risk behaviour of their parents. Two thirds of the reported victims of domestic violence had been attacked by a person using alcohol, and 16% of cases of child abuse and neglect involve alcohol. Children living with families affected by alcohol related harm tend to have lower school attendance and worse health.

Alcohol and Inequalities

The adverse effects of alcohol are exacerbated among those from lower socioeconomic groups; this is especially the case for dependency, which is often accompanied by poor diet and general lack of money.

The difference between EU countries for healthy life expectancy ranges from 57-75 years (18 years) for women and from 57-71 (17 years) for men.

People who are socially disadvantaged or who live in socially disadvantaged areas experience more harm per gram of alcohol consumed than the better off.