The European Union has made a plea to the alcoholic drinks industry to stop targeting young people and minors in marketing campaigns.

Speaking yesterday (16 April) at the European Alcohol and Health Forum in Brussels,
the EU's health commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: "I expect the alcoholic beverages industry to market their products responsibly and not to directly or indirectly target children and young people. Committing to action is one thing, delivering is another thing. All relevant stakeholders are called upon to contribute to changing attitudes and behaviours, especially among young people. We simply cannot accept that the inappropriate use of alcohol damages the health - and destroys the education and employment perspectives - of so many young men and women ".

Each year, alcohol contributes to the deaths of 195,000 people across the 27 markets within the EU and more than 10,000 deaths were due to alcohol-related road accidents, claimed the EU health chief, adding: "Almost one in five young people in the 15-24 age group (19%) drink five or more alcoholic beverages in one session".

Drinks companies including Anheuser-Busch , Bacardi, Diageo and Heineken have all pledged to curb alcohol abuse, but, said Vassiliou, "we need to be very ambitious in this area".

"Next year I shall examine the impact of the action taken and from there on, we will decide how to proceed. But I am confident we shall have very tangible results in the next year," continued Vassiliou.

The forum meets twice a year and is chaired by the Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection. The Forum has established two Task Forces (on marketing communication and on youth-specific aspects of alcohol) which have already produced recommendations for further action by the forum members.