Published: Thursday 1 October 2009
Europe’s health ministers will today (1 October) discuss the role of pricing and responsible marketing in tackling alcohol abuse, but early indications suggest Sweden may have somewhat tempered its ambitions.
Sweden, which holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, has prepared a draft document setting out its roadmap for reducing the negative health and social impacts of alcohol misuse.
The alcohol industry has been nervous about Sweden’s push for tougher action on alcohol-related harm, but EU sources indicate that the wording of the current proposal does not take as hard a line as some had anticipated.
The Swedes want national governments to implement the EU alcohol strategy with renewed vigour, and to incorporate new evidence on the role of pricing policy as an effective tool in curbing Europe’s drinking habits.
Earlier this month, the brewing industry launched a stinging report on Sweden’s domestic alcohol policy, alleging that tightening restrictions on alcohol sales had bred an underground market for bootleg alcohol. This claim was robustly dismissed by the Swedish Presidency (EurActiv 16/9/09).
Unfazed by a predictable spat with industry, Sweden is pressing ahead with its commitment to make alcohol a priority during its tenure at the helm of the EU.
It wants member states to support evidence-based preventative measures to reduce alcohol consumption during pregnancy and is calling for more research into the links between alcohol and the spread of infectious diseases, including HIV.
Sweden wants health ministers to put pressure on the EU executive to take further steps to protect young people from alcohol advertising. It wants a proactive approach to enforcing regulatory and self-regulatory codes on responsible marketing.
This is a hot topic in several countries where drinks companies sponsor high-profile sporting events, several of which attract a young audience. The implications of restricting this kind of sponsorship and marketing will be thrashed out over the coming weeks, with Sweden intent on having an agreed set of conclusions by the time health ministers meet again on 1 December.