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Pan-European initiative to reduce alcohol consumption

European per-capita consumption of alcohol, the highest in the world, impairs health, reduces productivity and is responsible for 138,000 deaths each year. Alcoholic drinks contain genotoxic carcinogens such as ethanol and acetaldehyde, resulting in about 26,000 cancer deaths in Europe each year.
Pan-European initiative to reduce alcohol consumption
The EU co-funded 'Alcohol measures for public health research alliance' (AMPHORA) project is a collaboration between 13 European countries to provide evidence-based guidelines for policymaking to reduce alcohol consumption. This will reduce premature deaths and the heath and socioeconomic burdens due to the use of alcohol.

AMPHORA members conducted comprehensive research to determine factors that promote or reduce alcohol consumption, its socioeconomic impact and measures that effectively reduce consumption. Research showed that in the EU, alcohol consumption is 600 times over the safety limits that are set by the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) for exposure to carcinogens. Besides health problems and premature deaths, alcohol is related to injuries, violence crime and reduced productivity.

Project partners found that raising alcohol prices, restricting its availability, banning alcohol advertising on all forms of media, including the Internet, could effectively reduce consumption. Countries with stricter and more comprehensive alcohol policies had overall lower consumption levels than those with liberal laws.

Measures such as setting legal drinking age limits, lowering required blood–alcohol levels for driving, and licensing cafes and shops that sell alcohol are also effective. Additionally, timely interventions with giving brief advice by family doctors and general practitioners proved effective in reducing heavy drinkers overall consumption. This not only improved their health and productivity but also reduced the associated health care costs arising from poor health and premature death.

Potential barriers to effectively lowering alcohol consumption were identified. These included the lobbying activities of the alcohol industry, inadequate implementation of evidence-based policy, and lack of widespread advice for heavy drinkers. Moreover, the lack of standardised and harmonised alcohol policies in Europe as well as timely monitoring and surveillance programmes need to be addressed.

Besides the project website, AMPHORA findings were disseminated via two science policy meetings, over 30 publications, presentations, workshops and posters, press conferences and releases, an ebook, newsletters, videos and the AMPHORA Manifesto.

Project outcomes have successfully delineated cost-effective alcohol policy actions for lowering alcohol consumption in Europe. These would lead to improvements in health and well-being, reduced inequalities, and improved productivity. Ultimately, a healthier society is a wealthier society.

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