The European Union must act to combat alcohol-related harm, a Lords report urges today. New action by the EU should focus on measures it can take itself rather than relying on Member State action alone.
Alcohol abuse is the third highest cause of disease and death in Europe, the world region with the highest alcohol consumption per head. The rate of liver-deaths in the UK has nearly quadrupled over the last 40 years.
In 2006 the EU adopted its own Alcohol Strategy aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm. This expired in 2012. The House of Lords Committee has considered whether there should be a new EU strategy.
The Committee has reached three main conclusions:
- The 2006-12 strategy, while well-intentioned, did not concentrate on what the EU itself can act on. Consequently it achieved little. In developing any new action the EU should therefore concentrate on what it can do, over and above any initiatives the Member States can take on their own. In particular, the EU should ensure that its own policies contribute to the reduction of alcohol-related harm and excessive drinking.
- The current EU alcohol taxation regime prevents Member States from raising duties on the most harmful substances, and provides incentives to purchase drinks with higher alcohol contents. This illogical taxation structure must be reformed.
- The EU rules of food labelling must be amended to include alcoholic drinks. These labels should include, as a minimum, the strength, the calorie content, guidelines on safe drinking levels, and a warning about the dangers of drinking when pregnant. Voluntary commitments are not enough.