Fabian Demicoli

Action Plan on Youth and on Heavy Episodic Drinking


What's Happening? At the
moment the Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action (CNAPA) are drafting
an action plan targeting binge drinking, enforcement of restrictions on
availability for youth, limiting exposure of youth to alcohol marketing and
advertising, ensuring a healthy and safe environment for children and young
people and monitoring and increased research.

 

Background

Alcohol
is one of the world's top three priority public health areas. Even though only
half the global population drinks alcohol, it is the world's third leading
cause of ill health and premature death, after low birth weight and unsafe sex
(for which alcohol is a risk factor), and greater than tobacco. In Europe,
alcohol is also the third leading risk factor for disease and mortality after
tobacco and high blood pressure.

The
European Union (EU) is the region with the highest alcohol consumption in the
world: in 2009, average adult (aged 15+ years) alcohol consumption in the EU
was 12.5 litres of pure alcohol – 27g of pure alcohol or nearly three drinks a
day, more than double the world average. Although there are many individual
country differences, alcohol consumption in the EU as a whole has continued at
a stable level over the past decade. Alcohol is a cause of no communicable
diseases, including cancers, cardiovascular diseases and liver diseases;
communicable diseases, increasing the risks of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and
community-acquired pneumonia; and all types of intentional and unintentional
injury, including homicides and suicides. Alcohol harms people other than the
drinker, whether through violence on the street, domestic violence in the
family, or simply using government resources, notably through the costs of providing
health care, unemployment and incapacity benefits, and dealing with crime and
disorder.


What is being proposed?

Minimum Unit
Pricing – a standard rate for a MUP per gram of alcohol.

Evening hours watershed for TV and
Radio.

Cinema – ban unless film is for over
18s

Outdoor media – restrictions

Print media – restrictions

Regulation of advertising content

Regulation of sport sponsorship

Health advice and warnings (including
pregnancy) on all alcohol drink containers and on promotional materials

Display of grams of pure alcohol

Display calorie count

 

Malta compared to the rest of the EU

The overall
volume of consumption has traditionally been high in the EU, except for Cyprus
and Malta showing also a relatively lowest burden of alcohol-attributable
mortality.

Countries that
joined the EU in 2004, and later countries such as Bulgaria and Romania, had to
increase their alcohol excise duty rates considerably before or when they
joined the EU.

In almost all
new EU member states since 2003, the nominal and real values of alcohol excise
duty rates increased between 2004 and 2010. The exceptions are Cyprus, with a
constant nominal rate, and Malta, with a constant excise duty rate for beer and
a 50% decrease for distilled spirits. Despite increases in alcohol excise duty
rates in the new EU member states, the lowest excise duty rates were still
found among them in 2011, Bulgaria and Romania being the clearest examples. Low
excise duty rates for beer can also be found among the older member states.

At the end of
2010, all but three countries had established a maximum legal BAC level of 0.5
g/litre or below for general population drivers, with four countries adopting a
zero tolerance level . Towards the end of 2011, Ireland reduced its maximum
permitted BAC level from 0.8 g/litre to 0.5 g/litre for general population
drivers. This left only Malta and the United Kingdom with a level of 0.8
g/litre.

 

Conclusion

Alcohol is not
just a health issue; it is also a vital issue for the economy and for
productivity. At times of economic downturns, the two conditions for which
death rates jump up are suicides and 
alcohol use disorders. A more than 3% increase in unemployment in the EU
is associated with a staggering 28% increase in deaths from alcohol use
disorders. Many studies have estimated the economic burden that alcohol imposes
on society. The cost comes to as much as 2-3% of GDP, over €300 per citizen per
year; and between half and two thirds of these social costs are due to  lost productivity. If the costs to people
other than the drinker are included, this cost would probably double.  The EU faces an urgent need to reduce the
burden of alcohol, not only to improve the health and well-being of its
citizens but also to strengthen the economic sustainability and productivity of
the Union as a whole.

The date of the
next meeting of CNAPA will be 17-18 June.

 

Article by Gayle Lynn Callus –
University student reading a Bachelors Degree in European Studies

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