CHAPTER 5: POSSIBLE POLICY APPROACHES |
Health in all policies
114. Both the Government and public health interest
groups strongly urged that the EU adopt a 'health in all policies'
approach to alcohol-related harm by the EU. Mr Carlin described
the rationale for such an approach: "The alcohol Strategy
has been located within and led by DG SANCO, but it should be
an overarching strategy owned by Member States and by the whole
Ms Brown said that, in future, policy-makers in the Commission
"need to have an awareness that alcohol is everybody's business:
it crosses all the Directorates-General across Europe and is not
just an issue for DG SANCO. We need to have an education process
whereby colleagues in DG Tax, DG Info and DG Trade understand
the impact that alcohol has across their policy briefs and that
alcohol harm has in general across society."
115. Mr Acton added that the Government
"would like a new strategy that focuses more on a Health
in All Policies approach as far as the EU's own policies are concerned.
There are quite a number of EU rules and pieces of legislation
that were devised some time before the current EU alcohol Strategy."
He also provided evidence of the concrete benefits which such
an approach has yielded in the past: "One positive example
that I could give is to do with the common market organisation
for wine. The reform of that regime has led, and is leading, to
positive developments such as a reduction of subsidies for cheap
spirits and the EU promoting quality wine much more."
116. We agree that this approach should form
the core of any future EU action on alcohol-related harm. Given
the EU's limited competences in the field of health, it seems
to us that this is where the EU can add real value to Member State
action by ensuring that, where it does have competence, its own
policies are not at odds with the public health goals enshrined
in the Treaties. Such a mainstreaming approach should nonetheless
be combined with explicit action on alcohol abuse as a distinct
117. Future EU action on alcohol abuse should
not be confined to action under health policy, but should take
a 'health in all policies' approach reflected through EU policies
on related areas such as food labelling, cross-border marketing
Targeted or overall population
118. Witnesses disagreed on whether EU action
on alcohol-related harm should aim to reduce the overall level
of drinking across the EU's population through so-called 'whole
119. Industry representatives strongly contested
such measures in both oral and written evidence, commending the
Strategy for not adopting them. They instead advocated targeted
measures addressing harmful alcohol use only, arguing that whole
population measures unjustly penalise drinkers who are moderate
consumers, to which group they claim the "vast majority"
of adults belong.
120. For the same reason they opposed the WHO's
'best buy' measures, of which Dr M¾ller said: "It
is very clear that the industry does not want to have any population-wide
measures. It wants to have individual-based approaches to change
people's behaviour, such as targeting those who drink too much.
That is completely different from our evidence."
121. Witnesses from the public health sector,
on the other hand, insisted that whole population measures were
a key component to any policy seeking to reduce alcohol-related
harm in the long term. The Minister agreed, stressing the complexity
of policy-making and explaining that the most effective policy
approach was one which combined various types of measures. Giving
the UK's own approach to alcohol policy as an example, she said
that "pragmatically, it tends to be a combination of both.
It is clearly up to member states how far each one's strategy
adopts the population or individual approach, but I think that
in practice most people will use a blend of the two."
122. She then set out a very clear justification
for choosing a blend of measures:
"One of the challenges in taking an either/or
is that, first, I do not think that anyone thinks
of themselves as a binge drinker
I had a conversation recently
with someone within the industry who had the potential to be quite
influential in a particular area of policy and I was quite interested
to discover that there was a complete misunderstanding between
us as to who we were talking about. His view was that we were
talking about street drinkers when we referred to harmful drinkers,
whereas we were talking about people who were just drinking more
than is good for their health as defined by medical guidelines
We want to talk to that person, too, and that is why you
have to talk in terms of population measures and those more general
terms, because otherwise there is a danger that people just think,
'They're not talking about me'."
123. We believe that the most effective policy
approach is one which combines measures at population level intended
to reduce overall levels of consumption, with targeted measures
intended to reduce harmful consumption. Such measures, if adopted
at EU level, should allow enough flexibility for Member States
to adapt to them to their specific national context.
118 Q104 Back
Written evidence from BBPA (EAS0013), WSTA (EAS0016), SABMiller
(EAS0009), spiritsEUROPE (EAS0025) and Portman Group (EAS0018) Back