– having regard to the Commission Communication on an EU strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol related harm (COM(2006)0625),
– having regard to Council Recommendation 2001/458/EC of 5 June 2001 on the drinking of alcohol by young people, in particular children and adolescents(1),
– having regard to the Council Conclusions of 5 June 2001 on a Community Strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm(2),
– having regard to Commission Recommendation 2004/345/EC of 6 April 2004 on enforcement in the field of road safety(3),
– having regard to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Stockholm Declaration on Young People and Alcohol 2001,
– having regard to various judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Communities (Franzen case (C-189/95), Heinonen case (C-394/97), Gourmet case (C-405/98), Catalonia (C-190 and C-179/90), Loi Evin (C-262/02 and C-429/02),
– having regard to the WHO resolution of 25 May 2005 on Public-health problems caused by harmful use of alcohol (WHA 58.26),
– having regard to target 12 of Health 21 of 1999 and the Action Plan on Alcohol 2000-2005 of WHO European Region,
– having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,
– having regard to the report of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A6-0303/2007),
A. whereas the terminology to be used when discussing alcohol-related harm should be based on official terminology as established by the WHO so as to avoid ambiguous wording and meaning,
B. whereas the problem of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption, especially among young people,is evident at European level, whereas such consumption damages the human organism, in particular in children and young people, and causes deaths through related diseases and accidents as well as social problems and crime, while also doing great damage to the European economy, and whereas the need to implement evidence-based alcohol policies is nowadays a priority for all Member States,
C. whereas hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption is an important health determinantand a threat to public health, which is responsible for a wide range of health and social harm,
D. whereas Article 152 of the Treaty states the competence and the responsibility of the European Union to address public health problems by complementing national actions in this field, whereas work at EU level to identify and disseminate best practices, which has produced positive results in this field, is an important complement to national policy measures, whereas consideration of effective national action plans should be used as a basis for similar measures in other Member States and create synergies at national level,
E. whereas economic and social factors (workplace stress, excessive workloads, unemployment, job insecurity, etc) can play a key role in hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption and in precipitating alcohol dependence,
F. whereas the Member States are employing a variety of strategies to prevent hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption and/or reduce alcohol-related health problems,
G. whereas it is desirable thatthe European Union formulates general objectives for curbing the harmful effects of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption in the Member States and is able toundertake measures in close cooperation with Member States in order to prevent alcohol-related harm affecting both drinkers and third parties, which includes harmful effects on health, such as foetal alcohol syndrome(FAS) and foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), hepatic diseases, cancer, increased blood pressure and heart attacks, and traffic accidents and accidents in the workplace, but also social harm, such as domestic and family violence, child neglect, unemployment, poverty, social stigma and social exclusion,
H. whereas the Court of Justice of the European Communities has repeatedly confirmed that combating alcohol-related harm is an important and valid public health goal,
I. whereas, although the same worrying drinking patterns are being seen among young people in the different Member States, drinkingpatterns and traditions vary between different parts of the European Union, a fact which should be taken into account when formulating a European approach to alcohol-related problems, to enable each Member State to tailor its response to the problems and the nature of the alcohol-related harm involved; whereas a single, uniform alcohol policy for all EU countries would not be possible, whereas there are still a number of alcohol policy issues which cross borders and make the implementation of national alcohol policy increasingly difficult for individual Member States; whereas there is therefore a need for concerted action at EU level; whereas the Commission should urge Member States to pursue an effective and ambitious policy of combating hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption, and should give the Member States as much support as possible in doing so,
J. whereas political measures at national or EU level can never be a substitute for the responsibility for moderate and limited alcohol consumption, which ultimately lies with the individual and the family,
K. whereas guidelines for low-risk consumption maybeindicatedthrough campaignsacross Europeaddressed to the publicand adapted to the specific circumstances of the Member States; whereas strong, targetedmeasures should be undertaken to prevent hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption amongdrivers andworkers, whereas measures should also be taken to prevent theconsumption of alcoholby minors and pregnant women,
L. whereas society pays a major part of the costs of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption; whereas, as a consequence, everybody would benefit from an efficient reduction of alcohol-related harm, whereas it is therefore reasonable to adopt certain limitations to the access to alcoholic beverages,
M. whereas health claims may not be made at all on alcoholic beverages and nutrition claims only in exceptional cases, as laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods(4),
N. whereas alcohol consumption influences considerably the metabolism of various nutrients; whereas alcohol consumption exerts an influence on the action of various medicines because of the existing interaction between them,
O. whereas the damaging effects of alcohol consumption on the liver have been well established, as well as the detrimental effects on the central and peripheral nervous systems, and increasingly so in today's ageing society,
1. Welcomes the Commission approach taken in the Communication on the hazardous and harmful consumptionof alcohol and its harmful health consequences; calls, however, on the Commission, while not undermining the subsidiarity principle, to formulate ambitious general objectives for the Member States with a view to curbing hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption; calls on the Member States to pay particular attention to vulnerable social groups, such as children, young people and pregnant women, and to address the problems of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption by young people, workers and drivers by means of information and awareness-raising campaigns and, where appropriate, a review of compliance with existing national laws;
2. Acknowledges that alcohol consumption can be considered as a part of the European cultural heritage and life style; acknowledges that low alcohol consumption, i.e. 10 grams per day according to the WHO-Regional Office for Europe Action Plan on Alcohol 2000-2005 (PAEA), helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases and ischemia in some middle-aged individuals; recognises that whilemoderate consumers represent the majority of alcohol consumers, hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption isa significantminor behavioural pattern;
3. Points out that hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption occurs in all social groups and is caused by a wide variety of factors, making a comprehensive approach to combating this problem essential;
4. Acknowledges that interventions based on proper scientific evaluation are necessary if hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption is to be effectively reduced; considers that, since alcohol is one of the most significant health determinants, it is very important to collect data across the European Union and especially data on the correlation between levels of alcohol and road accidents, alcohol and liver diseases, and alcohol and neuropsychological disturbances, syndromes and diseases; therefore invites Member States and all stakeholders to increase resources dedicated to collection of data and improving the efficiency of information, and to prevention campaigns and programmes;
5. Points out that the most urgent problems of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption are related to the effects of alcohol on young people, who are more vulnerable to physical and emotional suffering as well as to social harm from their own or other people's drinking;
6. Is worried about the increase in alcohol consumption among minors and young people and notes a worrying trend on their partto start drinking at an ever-earlier age and, given their greater willingness to take risks, to engage indangerous forms of behavioursuch as binge drinking, other forms of hazardous alcohol consumption which aim at drunkenness, mixedconsumption of alcohol and drugs, and driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and drugs;
7. Stresses that young adolescents tend to increase their alcohol consumption when entering university life; considers that increased efforts at universities may contribute to lowering the number of heavy consumers of alcohol in the future; therefore calls on the Member States to intensify their prevention programmes in this area;
8. (i) Calls on the Commission to list and quantify the concrete harmful effects of alcohol consumption among young people in the Member States with a view to subsequently formulating European objectives for Member States aimed at curbing hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption by young people with Member States committing themselves to reducing these harmful effects at European level, taking into account the efforts already undertaken,
(ii) Without prejudice to any obligations imposed by Community legislation, stresses that the Member States are free to determine the form of measures to be taken at national level, but that they should report to the Commission on the progress made in combating hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption among young people,
(iii) Notes that the Commission has a supporting role to play in the achievement of the European objectives by helping the Member States to exchange knowledge and best practices and to carry out European research on combating the harmful effects of alcohol consumption by young people;
9.Calls on the Commission and Member States, with the involvement of relevant non-governmental organisations and economic associations in the context of the Health and Alcohol Forum proposed by the Commission, to encourage the exchange of proven practices, in particular with a view to preventing hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption among children and young people, andto adopt the following measures:
(i) to launch education campaigns to be conducted by Member States and interest groupson the risks of hazardous and harmfulalcohol consumption, especially through school-based educational programmes directed towards children and adolescents, in particular by encouraging them to engage in regular sports activities, but also towards parents in order to prepare them to speak about alcohol-related problems within a family setting, and towards teachers; the idea of responsible and moderate consumption by adults should also be put across at an early stage,
(ii) to limit the access to and availability of alcoholic drinks for young people, for instance by strictly implementing the existing legislation which prohibits selling alcohol to young people, by intensifying controls on sellers and distributors, such as restaurants and bars, supermarkets and retailers,
(iii) to involve retailers and the catering industry in identifying and implementing concrete measures to prevent the selling and serving of alcohol and alcohol pops to minors,
(iv) to particularly focus on such beverages as "alcopops", which are specifically targeted at young people, in order to ensure that their alcoholic nature can be clearly identified by consumers through measures such as stricter labelling requirements for such drinks, and requirements for clearer separation of alcopops from soft drinks in shops, and the selling to minors prohibited; also to promote higher taxes on such beverages,
(v) to draw up guidelines, to be implemented at national level, setting an age limit for purchasing, selling and serving alcoholic drinks,
(vi) to promote at European level blood alcohol content (BAC) limits as close as is workable to 0.00 % for new drivers,as already proposed by Parliament in its resolution of 18 January 2007 on the European Road Safety Action Programme - mid-term review(5),bearing in mind that some prepared foods may contain traces of alcohol,
(vii) to provide more possibilities to know and verify the blood alcohol content also through the use of auto-calculation on the Internet and the widespread availability of breathanalysers, especially in discos, pubs and stadiums, and on motorways and roads in general, in particular during night hours, and to ensure that the message conveyed to the consumer is that drinking and driving are not compatible,
(viii) to take any necessary measures to increase controls on drink-driving to the maximum,
(ix) to strengthen thesanctions for drink-driving imposed by Member States, such as prolonged withdrawal of the driving licence and periods of confiscation of the vehicle,
(x) to encourage Member States to ensure the availability of alternative public means of transportation for drivers who have consumed alcohol,
(xi) to encourage the extension of "designated-driver programmes" ("who drives doesn't drink") through educational means in view of their beneficial impact on road safety, while reminding passengers of the effects of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption,
(xii) to set up a European prize for the best campaign against hazardous and harmful alcohol consumptiondirected at schools and young people,
(xiii) to intensify the exchange of best practice between Member States on how to work against hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption, and between national police forces on controls on drink-driving by young people ,
(xiv) to promote initiatives designed to guarantee psychological follow-up for individuals taken to hospital with acute alcohol intoxication;
10. (i) Calls on the Commission to quantify the incidence of FAS (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome) and FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) in the Member States with a view to subsequently formulating European objectives for the Member States aimed at curbing FAS and FASD, with Member States committing themselves to reducing their incidence at European level, taking into account the efforts already undertaken,
(ii) without prejudice to any obligations imposed by Community legislation, stresses that the Member States are free to determine the substance of the measures to be taken at national level, but that they should report to the Commission on the progress made in combating FAS and FASD,
(iii) notes that the Commission has a supporting role to play in the achievement of the European objectives by helping the Member States to exchange knowledge and best practices and to carry out European research on combating FAS and FASD;
11. Takes the view that both women and men should be better informed about the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy and about FASDin particular, in order to avoid new-born babies and adolescentsbeing affected by diseases and developmental delays caused by alcohol use during pregnancy; emphasises that appropriate warning on the package of alcoholic beverages may prevent women from drinking alcohol before and during pregnancy; notes that, for problem drinkers, further support during pregnancy and follow-up after birth may be necessary;further suggests that gynaecologists and antenatal clinics should be trained to identify potential cases of hazardous andharmful alcohol consumption as early as possible and to support these women to give up alcohol completely during their pregnancy;
12. Takes the view that men should be better informed about the link between alcohol consumption and impotence;
13. Stresses that alcohol advertising and marketing practices should not be directed at minors;
14. Asks the Commissionand the Member Statesto draw up guidelinesfor the advertisingof alcoholic beverages on television and to ensure the implementation of the new Television Without Frontiers Directive once it is adopted; asks the Commission to encourage audiovisual media service providers to include in their codes of practice rules on the scheduling of alcoholic beverage commercials;
15. Welcomes and supports the undertakings regarding self-regulation given, for example, by the advertising industry and alcoholic beverage producers; in that connection, calls on the Commission and the Member States to check that these undertakings are honoured and, if they are not, to impose penalties;
16. Points out that Member States are currently able to introduce obligatory health warnings for alcoholic beverages; recalls that front of pack labels may include the warnings that alcohol can cause serious health and mental health problems, that alcohol is addictive and that alcohol consumption during pregnancy may be harmful to the foetus; notes also that health warnings on alcohol may require European harmonisation similar to health warnings on tobacco and ask the Commission therefore to publish before 1 January 2010 either a legislative proposal to introduce health warnings on alcoholic beverages, or a communication to explain why in contrast to health warnings on tobacco, the introduction or harmonisation of health warnings on alcohol is not necessary; suggests that health warnings could in particular warn against the dangers related to alcohol consumption during pregnancy;
17. Calls on the Commission to promote initiatives aimed at exchanging best medical practices in a variety of healthcare settings as well as promoting independent and impartial information campaigns designed to raise awareness about the risks of hazardous and harmfulalcohol consumption; campaigns should also be directed towards people vulnerable to neuropsychological disturbances, syndromes and diseases and to people who are old, lonely, separated or isolated, as they are more exposed to seeking relief in alcohol consumption, thereby further damaging their condition and increasing their risk of suffering neuropsychological disturbances, syndromes and diseases;
18. At the same time, asks the Commission to promote the spread of instruments such as the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification test) developed by the World Health Organisation, which allow the quick identification of people who are at risk even before they acknowledge having a problem with alcohol; points out that timely informal discussion between general practitioners and patients is one of the most efficient tools to inform patients about the risks linked to hazardous and harmful consumption of alcohol and to promote the necessary behavioural changes in problem drinkers; calls on Member States to support the qualification of doctors (GPs) on alcohol problems and disorders and adequate interventions;
19. Considers that the Commission and Member States should undertake the necessary measures to tackle harmful social impacts of alcohol, such as bullying and domestic violence; asks for more social and psychological support for families which suffer from hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption; calls for special social assistance for children that live in a family with alcohol-related problems; proposes the institution of an emergency number to denounce alcohol-related abuse in the family;
20. Is concerned at the heavy alcohol consumption of many elderly people, which is often prompted by physical pain or feelings of loneliness and hopelessness; points out that alcohol problems in old age represent an important issue which is becoming more pressing as a result of demographic ageing;
21. Takes the view that increased knowledge about alcohol consumption and its relation to sick leave, long-term sick leave and early retirement is necessary; considers it important, in respect of EU and Member States’ employment law, to address drinking problems at the workplace by encouraging persons concerned to seek help, but recalls that this should always be done with due regard for the privacy and the rights of the individual; urges employers to pay particular attention to hazardous and harmful alcohol consumptionwithin the workplace by running preventive educational programmes and providing assistance to workers with alcohol problems;
22. Is convinced that reducing the number of road accidents and related harm caused by alcohol (17 000 deaths per year) is a priority for the European Union; therefore
(i) calls on the Commission to list and quantify the concrete harmful effects of driving under the influence of alcohol in the Member States with a view to subsequently formulating European objectives for the Member States aimed at curbing drink-driving, with the Member States committing themselves to reducing the harmful effects of drinking, taking into account the efforts already undertaken,
(ii) without prejudice to any obligations imposed by Community legislation, stresses that the Member States are free to determine the form of the measures to be taken at national level, but that they should report to the Commission on the progress made in combating drink-driving,
(iii) notes that the Commission has a supporting role to play in the achievement of the European objectives by helping Member States to exchange knowledge and best practices and to carry out European research on combating the harmful consequences of drink-driving;
23. In order to better address the risks related to hazardous and harmful use of alcohol on the road, the following measures should be adopted:
(i) to promote a considerable increase in controls on blood alcohol content and to address the highly varied enforcement rate between Member States aiming at convergence of the frequency of controls as well as exchanging good practices as regards the places where the controls should be carried out,
(ii) to promote heavier sanctions for drink-driving, such as prolonged withdrawal of driving licences,
(iii) to promote at European level blood alcohol content limits as close as is workable to 0,00% for drivers of transportation means requiring a category A and B driving licence and for drivers of transportation means requiring a higher category of driving licence and for all professional drivers, bearing in mind that some prepared foods may contain traces of alcohol;
24. Stresses that all effective measures to avoid drink-driving should be promoted; urges the further development of alcohol lock systems and other instruments which mechanically prevent drink-driving, notably for professional drivers;
25. Invites the Commission to launch impartial and independent information campaigns, or to support such campaigns conducted by Member States, in collaboration with interest groups, promoting responsibility and moderation in consumption andhighlighting the negative impacts of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumptionon physical and mental health as well as on social well-being;
26. Invites the Commission and the Member States to step up and coordinate their respective activities aimed at combating various forms of addiction and to submit, by 2010, an exhaustive general survey of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption patterns and addictive behaviour and the causes thereof;
27. Urges Member States to tackle the problem of illegal and black market sales of alcohol, to control the quality of the alcohol sold and to intensify controls on home-made alcohol products (such as distilled products) which can be lethal for human life;
28. Invites all stakeholders to promote, within the Health and Alcohol Forum proposed by the Commission, the implementation of concrete actions and programmes to tackle alcohol-related harm, given that the main objective of the Forum would be to exchange best practice, collect commitment to engage in actions, secure proper evaluation of the actions and monitor their effective implementation; looks to the Commission also to involve representatives of Parliament in the Health and Alcohol Forum and to submit annual reports to it on the progress made by the Forum;
29. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission and to the governments and parliaments of the Member States.
The problem of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption is now taking on considerable and worrying proportions in all EU Member States although the value traditionally attributed to alcohol has varied from tradition to tradition, region to region, and country to country.
One fundamental distinction that can be made is between southern and northern Europe, i.e. between areas forming part of the so-called ‘wet culture’ - in which, according to an age-old tradition passed on through the generations from each person’s earliest childhood, wine is served with food, is something to be drunk with pleasure and to be taken in moderation, and forms part of the local cultural and traditional heritage - and the ‘dry’ culture - in which, as a result of the mood-changing properties attributed to alcohol and the fact that it is not consumed as a part of normal day-to-day patterns, alcohol is drunk outside meal times, generally at weekends and in huge quantities for the purpose of losing one's social inhibitions and escaping the conformism and rigidity imposed by social mores.
However, patterns have been changing over the last few decades throughout Europe towards more uniform behaviour and drinking patterns, especially among the younger generations, including a significant increase in the use of alcohol for social purposes and as a mood changer.
Studies conducted by many institutions, governments, associations and operators in the sector have therefore highlighted a worrying tendency - albeit among a minority of the population in Europe - towards inappropriate consumption of alcohol, which sometimes leads to genuine abuse.
Thus, the moderate use of alcohol can be considered as something that is not negative in itself, representing a feature of the culture and tradition of certain countries, whereas hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption can only be seen as dangerous to the wellbeing of European citizens because, as is known, it causes huge damage to people’s health in addition to its various indirect effects such as road accidents, domestic violence, in particular against children, an increase in aggressive behaviour and child abuse.
The figures regarding the impact of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption on European society give us food for thought. The studies carried out by the European Commission, in particular, refer to thousands of deaths in Europe each year owing to hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption. More than half of these are caused by alcohol-related road accidents. Alcohol abuse is responsible for 16% of cases of ill-treatment of children in the family. More than 60 000 people in the European Union are affected by the foetal alcohol syndrome.
Such problems cannot be left without an adequate response at European level. Member States have already undertaken to prevent and reduce problems related to hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption within the WHO. However, the action they take at national level is based on different policies, the result being that their approaches differ considerably, thus reducing the effectiveness of measures, especially in border areas.
A European dividend is therefore essential in the fight against hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption even though it must be borne in mind that the competence conferred on the European Union by Article 152 of the Treaty only provides for complementary action and, owing to the aforementioned cultural diversity between Member States, it is difficult, if not impossible, to put forward a single model for the 27 Member States.
It is possible, however, to adopt a number of basic measures and, above all, to endeavour to educate the public to drink responsibly, to publicise the harmful effects of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption, to remind producers and distributors of their responsibilities, to ask operators in the sector to provide the necessary support, to involve schools and families, to send out a message providing young people with positive examples and to increase awareness of risks among the more vulnerable sections of society.
This can take place, in particular, through a comprehensive strategy involving, in addition to coordination measures between the individual national laws and campaigns, increased exchanges of information and of good practice. Your rapporteur is convinced of the need for determined action through measures that have been proved to be effective.
First of all, accurate information should be provided through an awareness-raising campaign at all levels - family, school and media. The latest research conducted by the WHO shows that information campaigns aimed at these objectives and seeking to make people aware or more aware of the issues have proved particularly effective and it would therefore be appropriate to promote greater use of this type of initiative.
Secondly, by approving the Commission’s communication, which focuses on the five priorities in combating the harmful effects of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption, the rapporteur suggests that one of the main objectives of EU action should be to focus on protecting young people.
There is clear evidence of increased hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption among young people, linked to a lowering of the age at which they start to drink alcohols. Dangerous and socially accepted consumption patterns are spreading in a fairly consistent manner throughout the European Union, including binge drinking, i.e. drinking more than five units of alcohol together with the aim of losing control and lowering one’s inhibitions, the simultaneous consumption of alcohol and drugs, and more frequent excessive consumption.
Member States and the European Union should take a more stringent and effective approach especially in this area. It is the duty of the institutions to ensure that the weakest members of society are protected against social trends that are dangerous to their health. Young people are amongst the most vulnerable in that they are generally more exposed than adults to the risk of conformity and the influence of fashion and trends. It should also be remembered that young people represent future consumers and that, if properly educated, they will therefore contribute to reducing the harmful effects of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption in tomorrow’s society. It is nevertheless difficult to draw the line between the stage in life when a person should be considered ‘young’ and therefore ‘at risk’ and the stage when society and institutions can pay less attention to them and allow freedom of choice to take over from legal constraints. Here again, individual Member States have taken different stances on the issue. However, in general, the protection threshold under which it is prohibited to sell or serve alcohol to minors is between the ages of 16 and 18. A common threshold should be established for the whole of the European Union, which in my view should at the very least be the age of legal majority. The European Union does not have the power to impose such a minimum age, but could at least provide strong advice on the subject, and that is what we wish to advocate with this strategy.
There should also be increased checks on and penalties for the sale of alcohol to people under the legal age.
As regards the category of young people who have reached their majority but are still vulnerable, it would seem possible and appropriate to establish measures to be taken to restrict their access to consumption.
The rapporteur would propose, in particular, restricting the availability and possibility of supply of alcohol to young people by introducing higher prices, through specific taxation on alcopops, which are specifically aimed at young consumers.
In any case, appropriate measures should be taken, in particular, to promote greater awareness of the risks and physical and mental harm caused by hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption. It should be reiterated that action must be taken through education and information because hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption is essentially, like so many other behavioural problems, a question of attitude. To improve society, we need to change general attitudes.
As regards the aim of reducing alcohol-related road accidents, which, sadly, primarily affect young people, a larger number of checks on drivers is required to ensure that it is considered not merely possible but extremely probable that such checks occur. This is the only way to ensure that such action provides the necessary deterrent effect to avoid hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption by drivers.
To this end, and with a view to sending out a strong signal in combating the major problem of youth hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption, your rapporteur would propose establishing extremely stringent limits, on the blood alcohol level for new drivers. This measure would also be useful for persons learning to drive as adults, who would not have the necessary experience to be in full control of their vehicle even at the authorised alcohol rates. Here again, the European Union does not have the power to impose a limit but can, through this strategy, send out a clear message as to what Europe feels should be done and call on Member States to place special emphasis on the matter.
Similarly, BAC limits should be lowered for drivers of larger vehicles and professional drivers, given the dangerousness of such vehicles and the need to ensure that the speed of their reactions during working time is not diminished by alcohol consumption.
As regards public health, steps should be taken to promote widespread basic health measures. Screening of alcohol-related disorders should be stepped up under the responsibility of local doctors. This concerns the ‘brief intervention’, consisting in giving all patients consulting a doctor for whatever medical reason a simple questionnaire, through which susceptibility to or the presence of problems relating to hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption may be identified. Early experiments are proving successful: normally, people at risk are not aware of their dangerous behaviour which can lead to alcoholism and, through this screening exercise, can be provided with advice in order to tackle the problem in good time.
More information is also needed on the risks of alcohol consumption for pregnant women. The figures on the extent of the foetal alcohol syndrome, which affects 60 000 people in Europe, to which should be added the figures on underweight births in Europe owing to alcohol consumption, around 60 000 per year, show clearly that there is not enough information on the subject. It is obvious that large-scale campaigns are needed to encourage a responsible attitude on the part of couples wishing to have children, and in particular future mothers.
Alcohol abuse is also often responsible for violent behaviour, in particular domestic violence. It is proposed, in this connection, that an emergency number be established at European level which people can call to report incidents of domestic violence, in particular to protect children.
One effective approach, as highlighted by the Commission, is to tackle the problem of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption at work, especially when one considers that the working environment is where information can be distributed widely. Employers can also be encouraged to act responsibly by establishing a dialogue and providing support for employees with alcohol problems. However, there is no denying that the problem concerns people's private life and that a worker’s privacy must be respected in this field.
The rapporteur agrees on the need to set up the forum on alcohol and health, as proposed by the Commission, to promote exchanges of information and look into new measures to combat hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption. Effective conclusions should be drawn by sharing the data collected at national level.
Any such measures should, however, be taken in such a way as to ensure that they are feasible and will be effective, and it should be noted that European Union action must provide a dividend and be complementary to national and local policies.
European Union strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol-related harm