Sweden made tackling irresponsible drinking one of the key objectives of its EU presidency and put forward a list of recommendations on the subject that have now been adopted by member states.
A coalition of 12 European health and safety groups, including the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), has backed the proposals but the Brewers of Europe is more critical.
EPHA said it has high expectations for the Swedish proposals, and hopes the EU alcohol review will lead to action on pricing and advertising.
“The opportunity to put in place tighter regulation must not be wasted,” Monika Kosinska, EPHA secretary general. “Action on the promotion and pricing of alcoholic beverages is imperative.”
The Brewers of Europe, a Brussels-based trade body, disagrees, arguing that blanket price increases and advertising restrictions are not the answer to alcohol-related harm.
Rodolphe de Looz-Corswarem, secretary general of the Brewers of Europe, told BeverageDaily.com: “When Sweden’s own priorities of price increases and advertising bans have proved unsustainable in Sweden, we find it inappropriate that these two areas should be main focus points for a sustainable EU strategy going forward.
“We also must remember that the aim is to reduce alcohol misuse and alcohol-related harm, not to simplistically just try and reduce per capita consumption across the whole population.”
The Brewers of Europe supports the development of a strategy to tackle alcohol misuse but calls for a different approach to solving the problem.
“What’s effective when it comes to targeting alcohol misuse, and what we have been demonstrating through the EU Alcohol and Health Forum, is that targeted and locally-focused initiatives – in partnership with local stakeholders- work,” said de Looz-Corswarem.
The Council conclusions did call for national strategies or action plans tailored to national needs in recognition of the diversity in cultural habits related to alcohol in different member states.
But the text did also invite member states to consider the role of pricing policy, such as regulations on happy hours and special taxes on mixed drinks and drinks for free offers. It said that alcohol has become more affordable in the EU, and that pricing policy can affect consumption and misuse levels, especially among young people.
The text also called on member states and the Commission to engage with the alcohol beverage chain to ensure that regulations are enforced on how their products are manufactured, distributed and marketed. It also said improvements to the implementation of regulations on marketing should be considered to protect children and adolescents.