European Law Monitor

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ELM News ImageEuropeans support alcohol health warnings to protect vulnerable, Eurobarometer reveals

Almost eight out of ten Europeans (77%) agree with putting warnings on alcohol bottles and adverts in order to warn pregnant women and drivers of the dangers of drinking alcohol, according to the results of the special Eurobarometer on Alcohol presented by the European Commission today. The survey reveals that European public opinion is, in general, supportive of measures aiming to protect vulnerable groups in society and to reduce alcohol-related road accidents. According to the data, men drink more than women, and one in ten Europeans usually drink five or more drinks in one session, which is the widely used definition of binge drinking. Binge drinking is a particular problem among young people, with 19% of the 15-24 age group usually binge drinking when consuming alcohol.

EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: "It is evident from this survey that EU citizens support measures crafted to protect specific groups in society, such as pregnant women, drivers and young people from the harmful effects of alcohol abuse and misuse. I am deeply concerned about the data showing that one in five young Europeans regularly binge drink."

Protective measures

It is estimated that alcohol abuse and misuse kills 195,000 people a year in the EU. Harmful alcohol consumption is responsible for one in four deaths among young men aged 15-29. The vast majority of Europeans would welcome measures to protect vulnerable groups in society and to reduce deaths by road accidents. Only 21% disagree with putting health warnings on alcohol bottles and adverts in order to warn pregnant women and drivers of the dangers of consuming alcohol. 76% approve of banning alcohol advertising which targets young people.

Almost three quarters of Europeans (73%) surveyed would agree to the introduction of a lower blood alcohol level for young and novice drivers of 0.2 g/l, and 80% of respondents believe that random alcohol testing by police would reduce people's alcohol consumption before driving.

Men drink more, one in ten Europeans binge drink

More men than women drink alcohol and men also tend to consume more alcoholic beverages than women. According to the survey, 84% of male respondents said they had drunk alcohol in the past year. Among women, that percentage stood at 68%. Two thirds of Europeans said they had drunk alcohol in the past month. 35% of men admitted to having more than three drinks in one sitting and 79% of women noted they had less than two drinks on a day when they drink beer, wine or spirits.

One in ten Europeans usually drink five or more drinks in one session, which is the widely used definition of binge drinking for men. This is the same figure as in 2003 and is particularly high among the youngest respondents. Almost one in five young people in the 15-24 age group (19%) drink five or more alcoholic beverages in one session.

Among the population as a whole, there are considerable national variations, with 34% of Irish respondents saying they usually binge drink, and about one in four respondents from Finland (27%), the UK (24%) and Denmark (23%). On the other hand, only 2% of respondents in Italy and Greece and 4% in Portugal usually binge drink.

Price matters for young people

The survey indicates that higher prices would not reduce alcohol consumption for most people. 62% said they would not buy less alcoholic drinks if the price went up by 25%. One third (33%), though, claimed they would purchase less alcohol in case of such a price increase. However, younger respondents react more sensitively to alcohol price increases: 44% of the youngest respondents believe that they would buy less alcohol with a 25% price increase. Most Europeans (68%) believe that higher prices for alcohol would not discourage young people and heavy drinkers from consuming alcohol.


On October 24 2006, the European Commission adopted a Communication setting out an EU strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol related harm. The priorities identified in the Communication were: to protect young people and children; reduce injuries and deaths from alcohol-related road accidents; prevent harm among adults and reduce the negative impact on the economy; raise awareness of the impact on health of harmful alcohol consumption; and help gather reliable statistics.

The Commission identified areas where the EU can support Member States' actions to reduce alcohol related harm, for example by financing projects through the Public Health and Research Programmes, exchanging good practice on issues such as curbing under-age drinking, exploring cooperation on information campaigns or tackling drink-driving and other Community initiatives.

The Communication also mapped out actions already in place in some Member States, with a view to promoting good practice, and proposed an Alcohol and Health Forum of interested parties setting out areas where industry can make a contribution, notably in the area of responsible advertising and marketing. The European Commission is holding preparatory meetings with interested parties with a view to convening the first meeting of the Forum on 7 June.