This week (20-24 November) marks the fifth year of European Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm (AWARH). The 2017 AWARH aims to galzanise EU and national policy makers into action to address alcohol related harm in Europe. The 2017 theme is “Alcohol and Cancer” and the focus is on highlighting the avoidable risk alcohol consumption poses with regards to cancer.
Research across the EU highlights that 1 in 5 people do not believe that there is a link between cancer and the alcohol that millions consume every week.
In Ireland, this gap in knowledge was highlighted most recently when representatives of the alcohol industry, ABFI, openly denied any risk between alcohol and cancer.
Commenting in advance of the AWARH event being held in the European Parliament tomorrow (23rd Nov), Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications and Advocacy at Alcohol Action Ireland said:
‘there is clear evidence linking alcohol to more than 60 diseases, including seven types of cancer: Mouth, Upper throat, Larynx, Oesophagus, Breast, Liver and Bowel. The cost of inertia and the absence of active preventative measures, estimated at €1.5 billion annually in healthcare costs alone, will only continue to rise, and Ireland cannot afford to continue to let that happen’.
The principal policy response to Ireland’s high-risk consumption of alcohol remains the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which continues to languish in Seanad Éireann, over 700 days after its first introduction.
A crucial measure within the Bill is the proposed regulations to be established on labelling of alcohol products. This would ensure that all containers of alcohol would carry warnings and that consumers are informed of the danger of alcohol consumption including fatal cancers.
This labelling measure has been opposed by the alcohol industry in Ireland, who have frequently highlighted the possible outcomes of an EU Commission sponsored self-regulatory approach for alcohol labelling. However, speaking to this point, Mariann Skar, Secretary General of European Alcohol Policy Alliance, said:
‘In the coming months the European Commission will have a perfect opportunity to show us how serious it is about alcohol. If the alcohol producers do not produce satisfactory self-regulatory proposals for alcohol labelling, the Commission has Member States’ support, like Ireland, to go ahead and legislate as per Reg (EU) 1169/2011. If they cannot even do that then, we will know this Commission is running away from alcohol policy.’
Alcohol Action Ireland’s CEO, Suzanne Costello, is a Member of the Board of European Alcohol Policy Alliance: Eurocare having been elected earlier this year.
Further information on Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm #AWARH17 can found at www.awarh.eu and localised insight at the HSE portal: www.askaboutalocohol.ie