Intended for healthcare professionals


A European alcohol strategy

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 26 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:871
  1. Martin McKee, professor of European public health (
  1. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT

    Will the opportunity be missed?

    This month the European Commission must decide whether to adopt a strategy to deal with the adverse health consequences of alcohol. The strategy has been awaited eagerly by Europe's public health community since it was first mooted five years ago, but it could fall at the last hurdle. It may be the victim of a carefully planned attack by representatives of the alcohol industry, using tactics associated with tobacco manufacturers.

    Alcohol related disease accounts for almost 8% of the overall burden of disease in Europe.1 One factor contributing to the current level of consumption is the single European market, testified to by the existence of vast retail outlets around Calais that thousands of British travellers visit each week. Yet the single market has implications that go far beyond this type of cross border trade. Countries such as Sweden and Finland had longstanding stringent controls on alcohol sales that restricted access to low cost alcohol. After they joined the European Union in 1995 they had to dismantle important parts …

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