Employee hangovers related to the holiday season are expensive for EU businesses and societies as a whole. According to a review of the academic literature done by the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) on behalf of the Commission, alcohol?attributable social costs are estimated at up to €155.8 billion a year in Europe.
CAMH said that there are many social and economic burdens resulting from the effects of alcohol on individuals, families, workplaces, and society, and that these effects add up to a staggering number of alcohol?attributable social costs.
An average adult (aged 15+ years) in the EU consumes 12.5 litres of pure alcohol each year, or nearly three drinks a day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated in a 2012-report. This is more than double the world average.
According to the BBC, UK researchers have estimated that holiday-season hangovers cost businesses almost £260 million (€331.7 million) a year. A survey of 1,500 people, conducted for the travel website lastminute.com, concluded that around 25% of employees work for fewer than four hours the day after an office Christmas party, while another 20% of workers will call in sick.
Currently, there is no effective hangover cure available, according Joris Verster, a professor at Utrecht University’s Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences who has published numerous scientific papers exploring possible hangover cure. She told the BBC that the only way to prevent hangovers “is to consume alcohol in moderation.”
The EU has tried to reduce alcohol-related harm in Europe by publishing a strategy in 2006 to help national governments, and other stakeholders, coordinate their action. However, the alcohol strategy was not updated in 2013, as originally intended. The new European, Commission, which took office on 1 November 2014, has so far not indicated that a new strategy is being implemented.
A statement from The Brewers of Europe – the federation of the beer industry – said that beer should be consumed responsibly and in moderation, “On the other hand alcohol abuse must be tackled, hence the leading role played by brewers in the EU alcohol and health forum.”
In Scotland, the government is trying to limit the country’s alcohol consumption by introducing a minimum price per unit alcohol (MUP), but this legislation has faced obstacles.
UK and EU trade laws allow in principle for the setting of a minimum price for the retail sale of alcohol for public health purposes by a government or public authority. The Scottish legislation was passed without opposition in May 2012. The MUP was set at 50p per unit, and the legislation should have been implemented in April 2013.
However, it was delayed by a legal challenge by trade bodies representing international alcohol producers – the Scottish Whiskey Association (SWA), the European Spirits Association (SPIRITSEurope) and Comité Européen des Enterprises Vins (CEEV) who claim that the law obstructs the EU’s single market. The Scottish government is expecting a verdict in 2015.