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WHO Seek Tighter Alcohol Regulations

May 21, 2010

In a new strategy aimed at curbing alcohol abuse and keeping it out of the hands of young people, the World Health Organization is calling for discounts on alcoholic drinks to be banned and for advertising that targets young people to be trashed.

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

With upwards of 320,000 young people ages 15 to 29 dying from alcohol-related causes in 2004, the strategy takes aim at the marketing of beverages which contribute to young people becoming 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,” the WHO 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 strategy urges states to regulate sponsorship activities and the content of marketing, as well as the volume of marketing. It also asks governments to restrict or ban promotions connected to activities that target young people.

The WHO feels that pricing could discourage under-age drinking and heavy consumption. It sought bans or restrictions on the use of price reductions, promotions, discounts, sales below cost and flat rates for unlimited drinking.

WHO has also asked for time frames to be placed on when alcohol can be sold since the easy supply of alcohol has an impact on usage. It also called for retail to be licensed and the number of location of alcohol outlets to be regulated.

The WHO also is encouraging labeling of alcoholic beverages to contain the phrase “harm related to alcohol”.

WHO has received broad support for the strategy from both developing and developed countries, including Australia, China, Germany and the United States.

An estimated 2.5 million people died in 2004 from alcohol-related causes, according to the UN health agency. Alcohol is listed as the third leading risk factor for premature deaths and disabilities in the world, added the WHO.

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