In its second annual report on how industry is adopting a voluntary EU-wide responsible drinking charter, the European Spirits Association (CEPS) said the addition of Bulgaria and Romania to the bloc has made the focus, "all the more challenging". The charter is an industry agreement to self-regulate how it markets its products, a bid to head off regulatory action that could impose restrictions on advertising and promotional activities. The charter set out by the association, which represents 37 association in 29 countries, forms part of a strategy for spirits manufacturers to adopt responsibility initiatives, designed to counter concerns over how their products are being consumed. Work ahead Despite the oncoming challenges presented by this self-regulation focus, the CEPS said its members had made good progress towards the aims set in out in charter during the last twelve months, though there was a lot of work ahead. With the addition of two new member states in the last year, the association said it was encouraged by the ledges from the national spirits associations of both Bulgaria and Romania in joining the charter initiative. In the rest of the EU, the CEPS added that the bulk of progress made during the year had come from two schemes designed to assist individual national associations to meet their commitments in pushing a responsible drinking message. The first part of the plan includes supplying a set by step guide on ensuring each aspect of the charter is being met. The other focus is predominantly revolving around educating drinker of all ages and backgrounds over responsible drinking. Education, education In the space of the last year, the CEPS claims that its aims have received a boost from a decision by the European Forum for Responsible Drinking (EFRD) to help fund individual spirits associations corporate social responsibility plans. "This fund has already supported the launch of the new French and Dutch consumer information websites, namely, 2340.fr and genietmaardrinkmetmate.nl respectively, and other EFRD funded national activities are envisaged in the coming months," the CEPS stated. "It is in the field of the CEPS commitment on education, or more specifically, making consumers more aware of what responsible alcohol consumption means and what constitutes misuse, that we have witnessed the most progress in the past twelve months." The association said that a commitment to education was the key feature of the spirits industry's plan to reduce alcohol-related harm. Only by influencing drinking patterns through increasing consumer awareness of irresponsible consumption can this aim by achieved, according to the association. The CEPS therefore also praised consumer information sites like the drinkaware website in Ireland, as well as similar initiatives in Denmark and Sweden aimed at parents and young people as vital tools in fighting misuse. Plans by the Polish Spirits Industry (PSI) association to adopt a code of marketing conduct bringing its members inline with European Forum for Responsible Drinking's (EFRD) standards for commercial communications were also welcomed as a positive step by the industry. Aims of the charter The charter, devised by a number of leading players in European spirit manufacturing in 2005, outlines a number of key amendments to be made to their existing operations including:
By 2010, 75 per cent of all spirits advertising, including billboards, tv, cinema, and online promotions will include responsible drinking messages.
Over the same time period, All CEPS members will also ensure they have sufficient national standards to meet requirements outlined in the commercial communications European Forum for Responsible Drinking (EFRD).
Industry will step up investment in promoting retail and server training as well as drink driving programmes.
The industry will work with its stakeholders to clearly define what constitutes alcohol misuse and widely distribute the information.
Up until 2010, the industry will also publish an annual report on its progress and concerns regarding the responsible drinking drive.
European drinking concerns The attempts by the industry to promote greater understanding of the need for responsible drinking come as the European Commission continues to apply pressure to reform the sale of alcohol. In June, the Commission formed the Alcohol and Health Forum, which currently consists of 40 businesses and non-governmental organisations, designed to reduce excessive alcohol consumption particularly amongst young people in the bloc. To do this, the group will offer greater education for young people on the dangers of drinking, while putting curbs on irresponsible alcohol advertising and sales practices. The forum, which will meet twice a year, will be open to any producers or groups that can detail an action plan on how they will contribute to reducing excessive consumption. These initiatives will also be made public, so that the members can be judged on how they are faring. It will also allow other producers and NGOs to adapt the more successful initiatives, to better curb excessive alcohol consumption. Along with self regulatory policies, the body will also establish a science group to advice on both scientific and policy issues. This work will also be backed by task forces, with two already established to cover marketing communication and youth-specific issues. Excessive consumption of alcohol is estimated to kill 200,000 Europeans a year, according to the bloc's figures. This pattern is attributed predominantly to men aged 15 - 29 with one in four of alcohol related deaths coming from this demographic. Though women were found to fair better in the study, estimates still claim that alcohol is responsible for the death of one in ten females belonging to the same age group.