Reducing non-communicable diseases: we remain committed to play our part

At the end of September, world leaders adopted a Political Declaration at the 3rd High Level Meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs as part of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.  In the Political Declaration, Heads of State and Government of all UN countries call to work with key partners, including government, civil society and the private sector to reduce NCDs.

We welcome the invitation “to strengthen our commitment and contribution to the implementation of national responses to prevent, control and treat NCDs”. As spirits producers, we are encouraged “to contribute to reducing harmful use of alcohol in our core areas, taking into account national religious, and cultural contexts”. We believe this is a good  way forward, in Europe and beyond, and we fully agree that alcohol-related harm, and the policies to address it, have to be adapted to the national context.  

Over the last decade, our members have funded, supported, monitored and evaluated almost 500 responsible drinking initiatives in the EU. There are currently over 100 ongoing initiatives and, each year, a dozen of new campaigns are started. These actions aim at curbing underage drinking (e.g., enforcement of age limits for selling and serving alcohol), providing consumers with information on the effects of harmful drinking (e.g. drink-driving; drinking during pregnancy, drinking illicit products), and on promoting responsible drinking patterns. Detailed reports on each initiative are available at www.drinksinitiatives.eu, including information on the partners we work with, the objectives and tools used as well as measurement & evaluation results. On a case-by-case basis, we record and evaluate the positive impact that such initiatives have had on their community.  The website will soon be updated to make it more user-friendly.

The Political Declaration also calls on economic operators in the area of alcohol production and trade to “take concrete steps, where relevant, towards eliminating the marketing, advertising and sale of alcoholic products to minors.” To this again, we fully subscribe.  As spirits producers, our consumers are adults; and our commercial communications are aimed at our adult consumers. Selling alcohol to minors is illegal in the EU. And, as producers, we work with partners down the value chain and enforcement authorities to ensure legal purchasing age laws are known and implemented in a proper manner. Only by a strict enforcement, and changing the social acceptability of minors drinking alcohol, will we be able to continue the downward trend on underage drinking. As to the call on eliminating marketing and advertising to children, let me point out that targeting alcohol advertising to minors, whether by content or placement, is already prohibited in the EU. And on this issue again we are fully engaged and working with partners such as digital platforms to ensure our advertising is addressed to adults only.

We trust and believe that these actions undertaken at local level with relevant partners have contributed to the positive trends highlighted in the WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol & Health 2018 published that same week. The report shows a -19,3% decline in heavy episodic drinking among drinkers in Europe since 2010. The same positive trends are visible for young Europeans aged 15-19 years old. The ESPAD study (15-16 years old) show 86% of European students are now reporting “never being drunk” in the last 30 days. This is a -23% decline in the level of intoxication (since 2003).  The frequency of heavy episodic drinking decreased by 28% since it peaked in 2007. These positive trends can be observed for both boys and girls.

These are good results yet more can be done, and we remain committed to play our part.