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European Public Health Alliance – working Towards Better Health For All.

Ngos resign from health forum as Commission ignores member state and European Parliament calls for alcohol strategy.

Public Health NGOs have today resigned from the EU Alcohol and Health Forum, after Commissioner Andriukaitis said he has no plans to establish a new EU Alcohol Strategy[1] [1].

The Commissioner’s decision goes against demands from Member States and the European Parliament for a new comprehensive Strategy to tackle alcohol harm in Europe.

The Forum Membership, chaired by DG Sante, includes drinks industry representatives and public health NGOs. Over 20 health bodies, including Eurocare (European Alcohol Policy Alliance), EPHA (European Public Health Alliance) and the CPME (Standing Committee of European Doctors) have resigned in an open letter to Commissioner Andriukaitis.

Signatories outlined their “deep concerns” about neglecting public health by prioritising alcohol industry interests. These include:

  • The Commission ignoring calls from the European Parliament and Member States to develop a new EU Alcohol Strategy
  • The Commission plans include alcohol within a wider framework tackling chronic disease, so failing to address many harms caused by alcohol to those other than  drinkers, such as drink driving, domestic abuse and child sexual exploitation

There is no evidence to show that the EU Alcohol and Health Forum has had any impact on public health

The Forum was established to support the implementation of the previous EU Alcohol Strategy, that ended in 2012. With no new Strategy planned, membership of the Forum is no longer justified.

There was also disappointment that the Commissioner rejected requests for public health experts to have a formal structure to meet with Commission officials to discuss alcohol policy, free from vested interest groups.

Mariann Skar, Secretary General of Eurocare, said:

“The Commissioner stated drinking behaviours in Europe are good for the Alcohol Industry but not good for Health. Eurocare represents 58 organisations in 25 countries and we deeply regret the Commission’s decision not to establish a new EU Alcohol Strategy. This flies in the face of persistent demands from Member States, the European Parliament and NGOs.

The EU is the heaviest drinking region in the world and with 120,000 premature deaths related to alcohol each year, we absolutely must have a comprehensive strategy to tackle alcohol harm.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the EU Alcohol and Health Forum’s Science Group said,

“…a sad day for those who care about health in Europe. The Commission’s prioritisation of alcohol industry interests over public health has been laid bare.

Many NGOs have participated actively and in good faith in the EU Alcohol and Health Forum, in the hope of making progress and reducing alcohol harm. However, with no evidence to indicate the Forum has achieved any meaningful results, and no promise of a new Alcohol Strategy, we see no alternative to walking away….”_

Nina Renshaw, Secretary General of EPHA, said, “The alcohol industry must have raised their glasses to DG SANTE after their admission at the last Forum meeting that they don’t
even aim to improve health.

The Commission has finally admitted what the health community has long suspected – that they have abandoned alcohol policy altogether. The Forum has been proved to be worse than useless, a free PR front for the industry.

The Commission even endorses the industry introducing drinking culture to young kids by promoting “responsible” drinking in primary schools. The health community had to call time on this charade.”

 

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