Alcohol is a key public health and social concern across the Community. Europe has the highest proportion of drinkers in the world, the highest levels of alcohol consumption per capita and a high level of alcohol-related harm. Harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption is a net cause of 7.4% of all ill-health and early death in the EU. The consequences of harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption also include a considerable number of fatalities on EU roads, a broad social impact such as violence, hooliganism, crime, family problems and social exclusion, as well as low productivity at work.
The EU acknowledges that alcoholic beverages are important economic commodities. They also represent a cultural value for several regions in Europe. The production, trade and marketing of alcohol contribute to economic growth in the EU. Nonetheless, in order to tackle the health issues, effective alcohol policies are necessary and European Union support and coordination is needed to support Member States in reducing alcohol related harm.
The EU response to this challenge will focus on a combination of targeted measures aimed at limiting the availability of alcohol beverages especially to young people and at reducing their exposure to commercial communications. Drink-driving countermeasures as well as improving education and information may be included in a future strategy.
Cooperation between Member States is therefore crucial for the exchange of information and knowledge. Non-governmental organisations also are expected to play a key role in mobilising and involving the public, and raising awareness. The alcoholic beverages industry can also contribute by enforcing its code of conduct and acting responsibly. International cooperation, in particular with WHO, is planned to develop a system for the epidemiological surveillance of alcohol consumption and related social, economic and health indicators.