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WHO Releases Worldwide Plan to Fight Alcohol Abuse

Minimum pricing, controlled sale times, lower BACs for motorists and health warning labels on bottles are among the recommendations made by the WHO to reduce the human costs of alcohol abuse.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed a global strategy of 10 recommendations to fight against alcohol abuse and the health deficits that accompany problem drinking.

After 2 years of debate and negotiation between WHO health experts and heath authorities from the 193 WHO member nations, the WHO has adopted 10 recommendations to fight against the harms of excessive alcohol use. Although these recommendations are non-binding at the national level, WHO recommendations are traditionally influential to policy makers.

These recommendations which are designed to reduce alcohol problems include:

  • Limiting alcohol sales hours
  • Limiting alcohol sponsorships and marketing to children
  • Limiting discount alcohol promotions, such as all you can drink nights for a flat price
  • Increasing the price of alcohol through excise taxes
  • Lowering maximum allowable blood alcohol concentration limits for motorists
  • Reducing the number of outlets retailing alcohol
  • Printing warning labels of alcoholic beverages, to inform of health risks of consumption
  • Others

These recommendations are designed to reduce the health and social costs of alcohol abuse.

  • Alcohol is the third leading cause of early death
  • Alcohol killed 2.5 million people in 2004, including 320 000 people between the ages of 15 and 29

At present, about half of WHO member nations have no policies regulating alcohol use and sales. WHO health authorities hope that these recommendations might give a ‘regulatory framework’ for such countries that, if adopted, could have substantial positive health implications.

Although getting 193 nations to agree on a set of recommendations may take a lot of negotiation, getting the alcohol industry (which favors self regulation) to concur may be an impossible task.  In a statement, brewery powerhouse SABMiller said, "SABMiller is unconvinced there is sufficient evidence to support policy options such as minimum pricing and high excise taxes that may result in unintended, negative public health consequences which stem from the growth of the illicit alcohol market."

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