Europe’s brewers warn against non-targeted alcohol policies

Date

10 Nov 2009

Sections

Agriculture & Food
Health & Consumers

Press release

Brussels - 9 November 2009 - Three weeks before a scheduled review by EU Health Ministers of the bloc’s strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol-related harm, The Brewers of Europe have called for an approach which is targeted at the problems and avoids additional restrictions hitting all drinkers regardless of their behaviour.

Speaking at a briefing today in Brussels, the President of The Brewers of Europe, Alberto da Ponte, said: “We urge Europe’s Health Ministers to resist the pressure from some Member States to further tighten alcohol legislation by restricting marketing or calling for increased prices. We have to better target our efforts at the segments of the population who are, or are at risk of, abusing alcohol. There is no evidence that simplistic population-wide measures are effective in reducing alcohol misuse.”

Such measures would largely hit the group of responsible drinkers who account for the overwhelming majority of Europe’s consumers, da Ponte pointed out. “One-size-fits-all approaches do not help anyone and should therefore be discarded in the EU’s strategy to prevent alcohol abuse.”

Adding voice to the brewers’ arguments at today’s briefing was Jonas Arnberg, economist for HUI – The Swedish Retail Institute. Pointing to a recently published study carried out by his institute, he stated that “Sweden’s alcohol policy has created a lot of problems and today’s situation is far from the objectives it is aiming to achieve. There is a State retail monopoly on alcohol sales but 43% of alcohol consumed in Sweden is not even sold through official state channels. High taxes affect where people buy their alcohol but not how much they drink.”

The Brewers of Europe have been and will remain fully committed to addressing alcohol abuse, commented da Ponte, pointing to the sector’s leading role in the EU’s Alcohol and Health Forum. “We share the Swedish Presidency’s objective of tackling alcohol-related harm across the EU. However, we disagree on the tools and practices as to how best to make progress is this area. We trust the Health Council will recognise that positive lessons could be drawn from countries featuring a responsible drinking culture.”

Da Ponte concluded by urging Europe’s governments to enforce existing laws, and to acknowledge the efforts and commitments taken by Forum members “before deciding on new and even tighter restrictions.”

(ENDS)