“Drinks lobby blocking health policies”

Research undertaken by the World Health Organisation reveals that the average European drinks the alcoholic equivalent of over two bottles of wine each and every week.  The Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg and the Baltic states lead the European alcohol ranking.  Belgium only features on the twelfth spot, but of course this is only an average!

The WHO figures show Europeans heading the world ranking when it comes to alcohol.  Each day 800 people die in the EU plus Norway and Switzerland.  The WHO is now asking national authorities to implement stricter policies.

Maryse Geirnaert, the head of the Flemish Association for Alcohol and Drug Problems, isn’t surprised by the figures: “Sound policies can ensure that alcohol consumption falls, but rising living standards means more people are drinking in Eastern Europe.”

The situation in Belgium hasn’t improved in contrast to Germany and France.  Here alcohol consumption remains stable, though problematic drinking among men has risen to 49.6%.  Alcohol consumption among youngsters has risen too.

Maryse Geirnaert says there’s a simple explanation: “Belgium has no alcohol prevention policy.  Reasons are always found not to implement one.”

She says three measures are needed: “Prices need to go up. Advertising needs to be banned or restricted and availability needs to be curtailed.”

Maryse Geirnaert believes a new minimum age of 18 needs to be introduced for alcohol, sales at petrol stations need to be stopped, while 24 hour availability e.g. at night shops needs to end. She blames Belgium’s alcohol lobby for failure to make progress.

“Belgium is a beer country.  It’s world heritage.  The authorities pocket a lot of revenue in duty.  Health policies strand against the industry interests.  Health policies are blocked by industry.”

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