A new body has been created to focus on alcohol and health in Europe.

Responding to a European Commission initiative, over 40 businesses and non-governmental organisations agreed yesterday (7 June) to create the Alcohol and Health Forum. The group, which will meet twice a year, will focus on actions to protect children and young people and to prevent irresponsible commercial alcohol communication and sales.

"My expectations for this forum are high, as they need to be given the health challenge posed by alcohol related harm," said EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. "In particular, I expect the alcoholic beverages industry to market their products responsibly. The media, advertisers, retailers, as well as owners of pubs and bars should also contribute to changing attitudes and behaviours, especially among young people.

"We simply cannot afford to see so many young European lives being wasted every year because of the inappropriate use of alcohol."

The forum will be chaired by the Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection (DG SANCO), and will establish a science group, which will provide scientific advice and guidance on matters under discussion. Already, the association has created two task forces to look at marketing communication and youth-specific aspects of alcohol.

Late last year, the EC adopted a communication setting out an EU strategy to support member states in reducing alcohol related harm. The Communication on Alcohol & Health allowed for the creation of the forum, which, the Commission said at the time, would assist member states in monitoring the implementation of the strategy.