European Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm

Posted on: 20th November 2017

Brussels, Belgium, 20th November 2017 – Now in its 5th year, the European Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm (AWARH) takes place from 20th – 24th November 2017, with various activities being carried out under the theme of “Alcohol and Cancer”.  Research in Europe has shown that 1 in 10 Europeans do not know about the connection between alcohol and cancer, and that 1 in 5 do not believe that there is a link between cancer and the drinks that millions of us enjoy every week [1].  The AWARH partners are undertaking a number of activities this week which will highlight the importance of understanding the risks associated with harmful alcohol consumption.

Alarmingly, the burden on society of alcohol related harm continues to grow.  In the WHO European region approximately 70% of adults drink alcohol[2]” says Dr Biljana Borzan MEP who will host an AWARH event at European Parliament, in Brussels, on 23rd November Dr Borzan notes that “there is clear evidence linking alcohol to more than 60 diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and hypertension, liver and digestive diseases, and brain diseases[3].  The cost of inaction, estimated at 700 billion Euros in healthcare costs alone[4] will only continue to rise, and Europe cannot afford to continue to let that happen”.

At the AWARH event to be held in the European Parliament on 23rd November the AWARH partners will be issuing a Statement highlighting the link between alcohol and cancer, and asking for concrete steps to be taken to support (1) the implementation of the WHO Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol, and (2) the wider dissemination of the European Code Against Cancer.

‘Sadly, the European Commission’s approach to alcohol policy does not appear to have changed in the five years of AWARH’s existence.  If anything, we see that less and less steps are being taken to tackle the growing problem of harmful alcohol consumption’ says Ms Mariann Skar, Secretary General of European Alcohol Policy Alliance, who hosts the Secretariat for AWARH 2017. Ms Skar adds “Fortunately, the Member States are taking action, as can be seen by the recent policy work in Estonia, Lithuania, Ireland and Finland.  It is clear to us, the AWARH partners, that the Commission should be stepping up its actions on alcohol and supporting the Member States   We are encouraged by the Scottish Government’s recent success in moving forward with the implementation of a Minimum Unit Price for alcohol.  In the coming months the European Commission will have a perfect opportunity to show us how serious it is about alcohol. If the alcohol producers do not produce satisfactory self-regulatory proposals for alcohol labelling, the Commission has the public’s, and Member States’, support to go ahead and legislate as soon as possible as per Reg (EU) 1169/2011. If they cannot even do that then, we will know this Commission is running away from alcohol policy’.

[1] Special Eurobarometer 331
[2] WHO Global status report on alcohol and health 2014 
[3] WHO-Europe, 2012, Alcohol in the European Union – consumption, harm and policy approaches
[4] AWARH infographic