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Alcohol – a significant risk factor for cancer, many chronic diseases and injuries

Foto: Salomon 2000

In the second part of today’s session of the Informal Meeting of Ministers for Health at Brdo pri Kranju, the Slovenian Health Minister, Zofija Mazej Kukovič, chairing the meeting, acquainted the ministers with the conclusions of the third European Alcohol Policy Conference, which was organised under the Slovenian Presidency by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Slovenia in cooperation with Spain. At the opening session, the Slovenian Minister stressed that alcohol was a significant risk factor for cancer as well as for many other chronic diseases and injuries, going on to say that “harmful and dangerous alcohol consumption causes more than 7% of the premature morbidity and mortality in our countries.” The annual costs stemming from this have been estimated at as much as EUR 125 billion for the EU as a whole. However, the harm caused by alcohol is still underestimated.”

Mrs Mazej Kukovič added that the conference had offered an excellent opportunity to evaluate the possibilities and the potential barriers to the implementation of the already adopted EU Strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol-related harm. At the conference, countries exchanged experiences gained so far and examples of good practices. The Presidency country, Slovenia, has, with this conference, actively contributed to increasing awareness of the importance of effective policy and programme implementation in preventing alcohol-related harm at the level of Member States, regions and local communities and, in particular, of mutual cooperation in this field. It has thus also fulfilled one of the set objectives of the Presidency.

The conference especially emphasised the problem of harmful alcohol consumption among the young, which cannot be controlled solely by education and activities within the health sector. Young people, in particular, are exposed to alcohol and should therefore be better protected against the impact of alcoholic beverage advertising as this directly affects their attitude toward drinking and the quantities of alcohol consumed.

The conference also gave rise to a number of polemics and dilemmas regarding the inclusion of the industry in alcohol policy. “Self-regulation of alcohol beverage advertising and the accessibility of alcohol is definitely welcome as part of an overall approach. However, the effectiveness of such approaches still needs to be properly monitored and evaluated, as they cannot possibly be regarded as alternatives to other measures,” said Mrs Mazej Kukovič.

The conference participants had also highlighted the need for early detection of alcohol addiction and for alcohol counselling within primary health care for all those affected by alcohol problems.


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Date: 18.04.2008