Alcohol equal to smoking, hypertension in health effects
Deutsche Presse-Agentur, London
Alcohol consumption is harming world health as much as either smoking or high blood pressure, according to three top experts writing in the British medical journal the Lancet.
The experts, led by Robin Room, a professor from the Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs at Stockholm University, said alcohol consumption was causally related to more than 60 different medical conditions, including breast cancer and heart disease.
They assessed the overall burden of disease attributable to alcohol at 4 percent, while 4.1 percent was attributable to tobacco and 4.4 percent to high blood pressure.
The three called for measures to limit alcohol abuse, noting evidence that increasing the price and reducing the availability of alcoholic drinks could lower consumption, and save lives.
The influence of the alcohol industry on policy was largely negative, they suggested.
In relation to Britain, it was claimed that a 10 percent increase in alcohol prices would cut cirrhosis deaths by 7 percent in men and 8.3 percent in women.
Deaths from all causes explicitly linked to alcohol would fall by 28.8 and 37.4 percent, respectively.
They also advocated restricting the hours and days that alcohol could be purchased, against the worldwide trend to 24- hour shopping and relaxing liquor licensing.
Room said: "A stark discrepancy exists between research findings about the effectiveness of alcohol control measures and the policy options considered by most governments."
"In many places, the interests of the alcohol industry have effectively exercised a veto over policies, making sure that the main emphasis is on ineffective strategies such as education," he added.
He pointed to a "growing contrast" between governments' treatment of alcohol in trade agreements and disputes as an ordinary commodity and the more restrictive treatment of tobacco and pharmaceuticals.