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01/06/2006

Landmark EU report shows the full burden of alcohol in Europe

A 400 page report analysing the health, social and economic impact of alcohol in Europe, was released on 1 June by the European Commission, setting out the scientific evidence that will inform the Commission's first-ever strategy on alcohol due out later this year.

The report points at Europe as the heaviest drinking region of the world and shows that the styles and levels of drinking throughout Europe are much more similar than commonly believed.

According to the report, alcohol is one of the major public health problems in Europe. Causing some 60 different types of diseases and conditions (including accidents and injuries, mental and behavioural problems, cancers, heart diseases and stroke), alcohol is responsible for 7.4% of all ill-health and early death in the EU.

The report also shows that alcohol is a key cause of harm to people other than the drinker including some 60,000 underweight births, up to 9 million children living in families adversely affected by alcohol, the 10,000 ‘innocent' deaths that occur to bystanders or passengers from drink-drivers, and the 2,000 murders that occur each year.

Alcohol costs Europe an estimated 125 billion euros (equivalent to €650 for each household) every year due to ill-health, accidents and injuries, crime and lost productivity.

Contrary to what some representatives of the alcohol industry have tried to make policy makers believe, the report shows that education and public awareness campaigns are simply not good enough on their own in reducing the harm done by alcohol. In contrast, the report shows that we need to be tough on drink driving, and make sure that alcohol is not too cheap or easily marketed, supported by widespread campaigns if we are going to make a difference in reducing alcohol's toll on Europe.

“What really makes the need for action so urgent is that we know ‘what works' in reducing this toll,” says Dr Anderson, lead author of the report and international public health expert. “All we need now is the will to do something about it.”

Mr Rutherford emphasized: “Whilst price is a major factor in controlling consumption a less contentious and a more politically feasible action would be to control the volume of advertising and ban sports sponsorship which is the most insidious marketing strategy of the alcohol industry.”

For further information please contact

Derek Rutherford, Secretary of EUROCARE Tel: +44 1480 466766

Walter Farke, Public Relations Officer Tel: + 32 (0)2 732 6782

The report ‘Alcohol in Europe: a public health perspective' was written by Dr Peter Anderson and Ben Baumberg for the Institute of Alcohol Studies (www.ias.org.uk). It can be downloaded from http://ec.europa.eu/health-eu/index_en.htm