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Newsletter #4 - 6th Annual European Alcohol Conference: Prevention Policies To Limit Alcohol Related Harm

Thursday 27th November 2014


Did you know?


Pricing and Taxation - Minimum pricing is a "floor price" beneath which alcohol cannot be sold and is set based on the amount of pure alcohol in a product measured in units or grams so the more grams of pure alcohol in a bottle/can, the higher the price. The relationship between alcohol price, consumption and harm is the foundation on which the policy of minimum pricing is built.

Minimum pricing has been favoured by health advocates as an effective strategy to address the growing health crisis that has resulted from the increased affordability of alcoholic beverages in some countries where supermarkets and shops are using cut price alcohol to attract customers.

Minimum pricing guarantees an effect on shelf price, it relates price to alcohol content, and it is simple to apply. Large retailers cannot simply absorb price increases as can happen with other pricing policies. A study carried out by the University of Sheffield estimated that in the first year alone, introducing a 50p minimum unit price would see:
  • 60 fewer deaths
  • 1,600 fewer hospital admissions
  • 3,500 fewer crimes

According to RAND Europe, 2009, a report commissioned by DG SANCO which analyses the link between alcohol affordability, consumption and harms, the real value of the EU alcohol minimum excise duty rates, and of Member States’ (MS) alcohol taxation, has decreased since the mid-1990s in most EU countries.
  • Alcoholic beverages have become more affordable in most EU countries since the mid-1990s in some countries by over 50%;
  • There is a positive relationship between alcohol affordability and alcohol consumption in Europe;
  • There is a positive relationship between alcohol consumption and three types of harms, namely traffic injuries, traffic deaths and liver cirrhosis;
  • Cross-border alcohol consumption due to tax (and price) differentials can lead to increases in alcohol consumption in the higher-price country and increases in alcohol harms.

Labelling/Consumer protection: provision of comprehensive information - 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.

Unfortunately, today sulphite is the only allergen required to be listed compulsorily although many other allergens can be present. Allowing the alcohol industry not to provide full information on the labels of their products is yet another missed opportunity for reducing alcohol related harm.

Alcohol producers should provide information not only on ingredients, but also about the risks associated with alcohol consumption: damages to health (liver cirrhosis, cancers) risk of dependence, dangers associated with drinking alcohol during pregnancy, when driving, operating machinery and when taking certain medication. These messages would be, at a low cost to public budgets, easy to implement at EU level- important reminder that alcohol is a hazardous product. European Commission is best positioned to coordinate efforts to protect consumers from side effects of products which are sold in the internal market of the EU.

Labelling should be part of a comprehensive strategy to provide information and educate consumers about alcohol and should be part of integrated policies and programmes to reduce the harm done by alcohol.
What can be done?
  • Minimum alcohol tax rates should be at least proportional to the content alcohol for all alcoholic beverages
  • Tax on wine should rise in line with alcoholic strength
  • Minimum tax rates should be increased in line with inflation
  • Member States should have the flexibility to limit individual cross-border purchases so as not to diminish the impact of their current tax policies
  • Member States should retain the flexibility to use taxes to deal with specific problems

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  • Permitted under precise conditions defined by statutory regulation
  • When alcohol advertising is permitted, its content should be controlled:
  • Messages and images should refer only to information of the products such as degree, origin, composition and means of production
  • A health message must be included on each advertisement
  • Messages should not mention or link to sexual, social and sports related images
Recommendations include
  • No alcohol advertising on television or in cinemas
  • No alcohol advertising on internet except at points of sale
  • No alcohol sponsorship of cultural or sport events
  • No alcohol advertising should be targeted at young people
  • Regulations on product placement of alcohol products i.e. films and programs portraying drinking classified as for 18 certificate
  • A complete removal of intrusive and interstitial marketing tools such as: social media, apps on mobile phones
  • A complete removal of alcohol advertising outdoors and in public premises (i.e. athletes’ shirts, bus stops, lorries etc.)
  • A complete removal of sales promotions such as Happy Hours and Open Bars/Girls Night etc

The Secretariat for the Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm 2014 is held by ELPA.

Copyright © 2014 AWARH c/o Eurocare


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