WHO seeks bans on alcohol discounts in anti-abuse drive

The World Health Organisation is calling for discounts on drinks to be banned and for advertising targeting young people to be scrapped as part of a strategy to cut alcohol abuse approved Thursday.

 

The strategy drawn up by the UN health agency and approved by its 193-member states at an annual meeting of health ministers also pushes for an end to flat rates for unlimited drinking and for sponsorship to be regulated.

With some 320,000 young people aged 15 to 29 years dying from alcohol-related causes in 2004, the strategy took aim at the marketing of beverages which contributes to getting young people hooked.

"The transmission of alcohol marketing messages across national borders and jurisdictions on channels such as satellite television and the Internet, and sponsorship of sports and cultural events is emerging as a serious concern in some countries," it said.

"The exposure of children and young people to appealing marketing is of particular concern, as is the targeting of new markets in developing and low and middle income countries with a current low prevalence of alcohol consumption or high abstinence rates," it added.

The non-binding strategy urges states to regulate sponsorship activities and the content of marketing, as well as its volume.

It also asks governments to restrict or ban promotions connected to activities targeting young people.

Noting that pricing could discourage underaged drinking and heavy consumption, the WHO sought bans or restrictions on the use of price promotions, discount sales, sales below cost and flat rates for unlimited drinking.

The WHO also asked for the "days and hours of retail sales" to be regulated since the easy supply of alcohol has an impact on usage.

In addition, it called for retail to be licenced and the number of location of alcohol outlets to be regulated.

To limit harm done from any violence arising from alcohol abuse, the health agency called for alcohol to be served in plastic mugs or shatter-proof glass.

It also encouraged the labelling of alcoholic beverages to reflect the "harm related to alcohol".

The strategy enjoyed broad support from both developing and developed countries, with states such as Australia, China, Germany, South Africa and the United States all speaking in favour of it.

Australia noted that alcohol abuse was a "very significant health problem" while China pointed out that preventive measures were a "cornerstone" in cutting the problem.

An estimated 2.5 million people died of alcohol-related causes in 2004, according to the WHO.

Alcohol is listed as the third leading risk factor for premature deaths and disabilities in the world, added the agency.

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