Alcohol platform announces first commitments

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The alcohol industry, doctors, publishers and NGOs alike have pledged a series of actions to promote responsible drinking, curb under-age alcohol consumption and promote behavioural change among adolescents.

The members of the European Alcohol and Health Forum have published their first series of commitments aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm.

The 73 commitments announced so far are pledged by industry and NGOs alike and vary from developing information and education programmes on responsible patterns of consumption and the effect of harmful drinking to better co-operation actions on responsible commercial communication and sales. Others include actions to enforce age limits for the sale and serving of alcoholic beverages, developing a strategy aimed at curbing under-age drinking and promoting effective behavioural change among children and adolescents.

Examples of concrete action include European brewers’ national campaigns addressing under-age drinking and promoting behavioural change, such as “Drunk, You’re a fool!” in Finland and “Alcohol does not make you big” in Romania.

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) will contribute to developing key evidence messages that can be used to raise public awareness of different aspects of alcohol policy, and the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) will organise “Safe and Sober” talks to raise awareness about drink driving.

The actions pledged will be put into effect between January 2008 and January 2011.

"We are glad that the process is working and that a large number of commitments have already been made. We hope that the process will result in genuine action that will result in reduction of social harm due to alcohol," said Jamie Fortescue, Director General of the European Spirits Organisation (CEPS)

"Our organisation's commitments include putting responsible drinking messages to all spirits advertising by 2010," he said, explaining that although this type of message is already well established in most of the EU 15, the concept of corporate social responsibility is still relatively new in the new markets in the EU-10. 

"Other commitments include several drink and drive initiatives, in which we in particular promote the concept of "designated driver" [where one person does not drink and drives people safely home], he said.

"My only concern is the absence of member state representatives in the forum. It is not enough just getting industry and NGOs together as the actions need to be taken at national and local level," added Fortescue.

The Brewers of Europe underlines that "during the past five years Europe’s 3,000 brewers have been supporting and funding over 300 responsibility initiatives, mostly at the local level and often in partnership with key stakeholders including local authorities, doctors' groups, road safety authorities, NGOs and consumer organisations" and that new EU forum offers all parties an opportunity to "further step-up activities". 

"In the first wave of Forum commitments The Brewers of Europe submitted six commitments to local actions on the ground aimed at tackling issues such as drink-driving, underage drinking, binge drinking and drinking during pregnancy," said the voice of European brewing sector, adding that several countries had also committed to further improving self-regulatory systems for commercial communications for beer line with the conclusions for DG Sanco's Advertising Roundtable.

The European Alcohol Policy Alliance (EuroCare) congratulates DG Sanco for the initiative of the EU Alcohol and Health Forum, and welcomes the 73 commitments made so far by the participating stakeholders. According to the alliance, the majority of commitments, from both the NGOs, industry and retailers (2) are related to the priority area of 'developing information and education programmes'.

Regarding the priority area of 'self-regulation and better co-operation', which has so far received around 15 commitments from the industry and four from the advertising industry, Eurocare is particularly interested "to see joint action on the part of the alcohol industry and the retailers to enforce age limits". 

It is also looking forward to "the objective evaluation and monitoring of voluntary commitments, and their impact on reducing alcohol related harm", saying the real test of the present industry commitments will be whether those proven to be useful become standard practice." 

Furthermore, the alliance "eagerly awaits the outcomes of the parallel process of the implementation of the strategy on reducing alcohol-related harm in Europe at member state level." 

Communication on an EU alcohol strategy to reduce the health and social harm related to alcohol consumption was adopted by the Commission in October 2006. The document set out five priorities in the fight against alcohol abuse: 

  • Protection of young people and children; 
  • reduction of alcohol-related road accidents; 
  • reduction of the negative impact on the economy; 
  • raising awareness of health impacts of alcohol abuse; and; 
  • collection and dissemination of reliable data. 

The Communication also announced the creation of an EU 'Alcohol and Health Forum' (AHF), which was officially launched in June 2007. It brings together some 40 business and non-governmental organisations to discuss and commit to action to protect European citizens from harmful abuse of alcohol - just as the EU 'Obesity' Platform for Diet, Physical Activity and Health has pledged commitments to promote a healthy diet and more physical activity.

The charter establishing AHF announces that stakeholders will put special emphasis on actions to protect children and young people, promote responsibility and prevent irresponsible commercial communication and sales.

  • 17 Oct. 2007: The first plenary meeting of the Alcohol and Health Forum.
  • Early 2008: Meetings of the two task forces set up by the forum (on marketing communication regarding youth-specific aspects of alcohol). 
  • April 2008: The second plenary meeting of the forum.

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