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 Recomendamos: Global strategy to combat alcohol abuse

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Bebidas alcoholicas (Foto: Sertox )

WHO adopts global strategy to combat alcohol abuse. behavioralhealthcentral. May 20, 2010. Nations adopted a global strategy to reduce alcohol abuse on Thursday, breaking decades of silence on one of the leading causes of death and facing down an industry wary of new taxes and advertising controls in developing markets. In a consensus vote, the World Health Organization's 193 member states endorsed a series of optional measures to combat harmful drinking, from lowering blood alcohol limits for drivers to restricting opening hours of bars and liquor stores. The most contentious proposals affect brewers and liquor manufacturers, and deal with pricing and marketing. "Alcohol is the risk factor for many other things," said Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO's mental health and substance abuse department. "Usually it is not perceived as the killer, but it is." Read more,,,

The resolution isn't a legally binding treaty, and lacks the teeth of the organization's 2005 landmark tobacco accord, which requires governments who have ratified the agreement to fight smoking. But, while WHO guidelines often follow the richest nations on innovation, they frequently influence governments in emerging economies where industries such as tobacco and alcohol want to broaden their business.

Harmful drinking is the third leading risk factor for disability and premature death in the world, with 2.5 million people deaths each year linked to alcohol, WHO said. That figures includes 320,000 people between 15 and 29, and the agency said many others are sickened with heart and liver diseases, cancer and even HIV/AIDS because of alcohol abuse.

The health body stopped far short in its 24-page strategy of advocating a blanket strategy for countries rich and poor, and for those where alcohol can be drunk freely and where it is officially forbidden. Still, it said many governments were failing to sufficiently prevent and reduce alcohol abuse, and that the increased affordability of beer, wine and spirits in poorer countries compelled action.

WHO intensified its alcohol work in 2008, and has faced fierce lobbying from industry groups, which at one point were excluded from discussions. They have argued that advertising bans and higher taxes don't reduce drinking.

Major liquor producers said they would comment after studying the decision.

WHO argued that taxes help reduce alcohol abuse.

"The more affordable alcohol is ... the more it is consumed," the report said, calling for minimum prices on alcoholic drinks, incentives for nonalcoholic substitutes, and taxes and other pricing policies to reduce underage drinking and bouts of heavy intoxication. "Consumers, including heavy drinkers and young people, are sensitive to changes in the price of drinks."

The agency also took a tough line on marketing. Ads shouldn't target young people _ even of drinking age _ because this could also corrupt adolescents, and regulators should rein in new forms of alcohol advertising through social media, it said.

"It is very difficult to target young adult consumers without exposing cohorts of adolescents under the legal age to the same marketing," WHO said.

It also urged shutting liquor stores and bars after certain hours or on certain days, which it said could lead to fewer assaults and homicides.

And it said the evidence was strong that tougher blood alcohol concentration limits reduce drunk driving casualties. It cited a range between 0.02 percent and 0.05 percent as effective _ lower than in many parts of the United States but higher than in countries with zero tolerance laws.

Young drivers should be subject to even stricter limits, WHO said, and offenders should have their licenses suspended. Random breath-testing on the roads also can reduce injuries and deaths, it added.

With advocacy, the health body stressed that citizens have a right to know about the risks associated with alcohol, even if it conceded that education programs have been poor at limiting abuse. Health warnings on beer cans and liquor bottles "do not lead to changes in drinking behavior," it said.

While much of WHO's strategy went one way, it did note that the "production, distribution, marketing and sales of alcohol create employment and generate considerable income for economic operators, and tax revenue for governments."

Countries shouldn't fight alcohol abuse by discriminating against foreign liquor makers, it cautioned, in a nod to free trade law.

WHO said governments should balance interests, while giving special attention to the non-drinking victims of alcohol abuse _ a group similar to passive, or secondhand, smokers. These include children, adolescents and pregnant or breast-feeding women.

Enviado por jcp el 20 mayo 2010 00:00:00 (1771 Lecturas)

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