One in four deaths of European men in the group
aged 15–29 years is related to alcohol. In parts of eastern Europe,
the figure is as high as one in three. All in all, 55 000 young
people in the WHO European Region died from causes related to alcohol
use in 1999.
These shocking new data from the WHO Global Burden
of Disease 2000 Study set the scene on Thursday, as health ministers, other
high-ranking decision-makers and young people from the 51 countries in
the European Region gathered in Stockholm for the WHO European
Ministerial Conference on Young People and Alcohol. The Conference aims
to agree on Region-wide action to reverse harmful trends related to
changing patterns of alcohol consumption by young people and aggressive
marketing by the drinks industry.
"Over the past 10–15 years, we have seen
that the young have become an important target for marketing of
alcoholic products. When large marketing resources are directed towards
influencing youth behaviour, creating a balanced and healthy attitude to
alcohol becomes increasingly difficult," stated Dr Gro Harlem
Brundtland, WHO Director-General, in her opening remarks. "Based on
these concerns, I am calling for a concerted review by international
experts of this issue of marketing and promotion of alcohol to young
WHO will host a meeting on the
impact of global marketing and promotion of alcohol, in collaboration
with the Government of Valencia, in Spain later this year. WHO will also
establish a strategy advisory committee on alcohol to address this
serious public health problem.
In his address to the delegates,
Dr Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said "I
understand that progress is not easily made in this area. Alcohol is
deeply embedded in the culture and social activities of many societies.
Health policies must have popular support based on an understanding of
their importance. To help countries gain this support, the Regional
Office is launching a new European alcohol monitoring system. This will
provide on-going information on consumption, harm, drinks marketing and
country experience in protecting public health."
As part of the programme for the Swedish
presidency of the European Union (EU), the Conference agenda includes a
special working-group session on future EU action on alcohol.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the
Council of Europe, the European Forum of Medical Associations and WHO (EFMA)
and the European Commission were all active partners with WHO in the
organization of the Conference. Her Majesty the Queen of Sweden opened
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