EU alcohol strategy must aim to create 'responsible drinking culture'

Written by Romana Jordan on 13 March 2014 in Special Report
Special Report

Romana Jordan presses for more information, education and application of the laws related to alcohol abuse.

One of the topics, dealt with at the end of the 7th parliamentary term in the environment, public health and food safety committee was to do with a common, yet very harmful factor of our everyday lives, alcohol abuse.

In Europe we consume the most alcohol per capita in the world. Over one fifth of the European population aged 15 years and above admit to heavy episodic drinking, five or more drinks on an occasion, at the least once a week. In my country, Slovenia, those numbers are even higher: more than one quarter of Slovenian youngsters aged 15 are drinking alcoholic beverages at least once a week, and the trend of binge drinking is on the rise.

And nothing is happening despite strong national legislation and prohibition of sales of alcoholic beverages to those under the legal age for purchase. In fact, proper implementation of the laws in this area is a common European issue.

Negative consequences of excessive alcohol consumption are numerous, affecting individuals as well as society as a whole. Alcohol abuse can lead to addiction which increases the risk factors for numerous health problems, such as acute cardiovascular diseases and various types of cancer.

Often families and relatives suffer as well, because they are more likely to be exposed to domestic violence. According to the WHO, alcohol abuse leads to 30-50 per cent of domestic violence incidences. Children and the unborn children of alcohol consuming mothers make up a large proportion of alcohol abuse victims.

In our societies the consequences of alcohol abuse are wide ranging, they involve the health sector, social and employment policy and impact on the lives of everyone whether they are heavy drinkers or not. For example, the influence of alcohol and drink driving on road safety is frightening and a constant threat to us all.

I am often asking myself whether young people consider that the only consequence of alcohol abuse is having a hangover the next day. Are they aware of hidden short-term risks when being drunk, the long-term cumulative risk of excessive alcohol consumption and the impact on others?

Our society is being too tolerant to alcohol abuse, which is worrying. Whereas parents are strictly against any drug consumption, they seem to be simply unaware that alcohol is also one of the very dangerous drugs. Alcohol abuse can cause addiction, the health consequences are numerous and evident, excessive intake of alcohol can even be life-threatening.

Members of the European parliament are asking the commission and national governments to act more decisively in this area. We emphasised that the priority measures must include young people, pregnant women, and efforts to reduce the number of road accidents due to alcohol consumption. We expect from the commission a more determined, efficient and up-to-date action.

I do not want to demonise alcohol. It is widely recognised that a glass of wine or beer a day may be a welcome complement to a meal. Rather, our proposals are focusing on individuals and the ways to inform them properly in order to create a responsible drinking culture without negatively impacting on our national gastronomic traditions.

About the author

Romana Jordan is a substitute member of parliament's environment, public health and food safety committee

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