A House of Lords committee report has called for key EU level action to reduce alcohol-related harms, rather than relying solely on efforts by member states.
The report highlights that there has been no EU alcohol strategy in place since 2012 when the six year strategy expired. It recommends that a meaningful strategy needs to focus on actions the EU itself can take, including reforming of alcohol tax structures and labeling legislation.
The report calls for future EU action to take a ‘health in all policies’ approach reflected through policies on related areas such as food labeling, cross-border marketing and taxation. It argues for ‘measures at population level intended to reduce overall levels of consumption’ to provide the over-arching context for effective national policies. On minimum unit pricing, it suggests that should Scotland overcome the current legal challenge, the rest of the UK should monitor and implement it should it prove successful.
The three main conclusions are: The 2006-12 strategy, while well-intentioned, did not concentrate on what the EU itself can act on. Consequently it achieved little. In developing any new action the EU should therefore concentrate
on it can do, over and above any initiatives the Member States can take on their own. In particular, the EU should ensure that its own policies contribute to the reduction of alcohol-related harm and excessive drinking.
The current EU alcohol taxation regime prevents Member States from raising duties on the most harmful substances, and provides incentives to purchase drinks with higher alcohol contents. This illogical taxation structure must be reformed.
The EU rules of food labeling must be amended to include alcoholic drinks. These labels should include, as a minimum, the strength, the calorie content, guidelines on safe drinking levels, and a warning about the dangers of drinking when pregnant. Voluntary commitments are not enough.