EU forum aims to cut alcohol abuse

Members of the drinks industry met with health professionals in Brussels this week to discuss ways to curb alcohol abuse in Europe.

The meeting of the European Alcohol and Health Forum, which now boasts more than 50 members from health professionals and charities to drinks companies and retailers, was hosted by new European health commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.

Alcohol abuse is linked to seven per cent of ill health and premature deaths in the EU, costing the bloc's 27 member states a combined €125bn annually, European Commission figures show.

Forum attendees are committed to discussing ways to stop under-age drinking, how to provide better enforcement of existing laws on the sale of alcohol and the best ways to provide information and education about the harmful effect drinking can have on health.

In a speech to delegates on Wednesday, Vassiliou praised the drinks industry for agreeing to work with medical associations and youth organisations.

She said: "This is the first occasion at European level where we can see the alcohol and advertising industries sharing ideas with health NGOs, youth organisations and medical associations. I do not underestimate the potential benefits from these exchanges."

Vassiliou said action was needed, because alcohol consumption was linked to more than seven per cent of all ill-health and early death in the EU.

Drinks companies Pernod Ricard and Bacardi both released details this week of publicity campaigns they are running to encourage responsible drinking - following in the wake of ads already launched by Diageo and Brown-Forman.

It is thought the Commission, as well as the UK government, would prefer to encourage self-regulation and voluntary action within the drinks industry rather than heavy-handed legislation.