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Ban alcohol adverts across Europe, urges alliance of experts

Evidence shows policy works, along with price hikes and curbs on availability

Caroline White

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Alcohol advertising should be banned in Europe in a bid to drive down excess boozing and associated ill health across the continent, concludes an alliance of experts in a new policy brief.

Alcohol is Europe’s most persistent and devastating addiction problem, says the Addiction and Lifestyles in Contemporary Europe – Reframing Addictions Project (ALICE-RAP), which brings together a network of over 150 researchers with expertise in many different aspects of addiction, including the social and economic impact.

Alcohol kills one in eight 15 to 64 year olds and costs European society about £240 (€300) per head per year as a result of reduced productivity and healthcare, welfare and criminal justice system costs, says the briefing, which incorporates the latest scientific evidence.

The briefing notes that the most effective and fairest policies are those which nudge people towards lower consumption, through price hikes, restrictions on availability, and advertising bans.

A minimum unit price, which the Scottish government announced its intention to introduce earlier this week, is supported by research, says the briefing. Scotland has opted for a 50 pence minimum unit price, while England is considering a 40 pence option.

This strategy cuts consumption among. those who most need to curb their intake, while reducing the number of sales outlets, the days and hours of sale, and the number of grams of alcohol in a packaged drink saves lives, it says.

The evidence shows that alcohol adverts push people into higher and more harmful levels of consumption and trigger relapse among those trying to give up booze. Furthermore, it can encourage young people to start drinking, says the brief, which advocates a wholesale ban.

“Europeans drink more than twice the world’s average and alcohol represents the number one addiction problem in Europe today, greater than any other drug or gambling, “ said Dr Peter Anderson, Professor of Substance Use, Policy and Practice, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, and co-leader of the project, speaking at the report’s launch yesterday.

“Our aim with this policy brief is to help decision makers across the EU and beyond break the negative pattern of harmful alcohol consumption and costs by providing much needed scientific input to the discussion, which has long been dominated by the alcohol industry lobbyists,” he added.

Alcohol: the neglected addiction

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