Harmful alcohol use in Europe
Europe is the world’s heaviest drinking region (1). In recent years there has been an increase among adolescents with earlier initiation and binge drinking in most EU Member States. Among 15-16 years olds one in six have been binge drinking during the previous month and one in eight have been drunk more than 20 times in their life. Alcohol is the third leading factor for ill-health and death in Europe and 55 million Europeans drink to dangerous limits. Approximately 25% of all male and 11% of all female deaths between 15 and 29 years old in Europe are caused by alcohol (4). The estimated total cost of alcohol to the EU was €125bn in 2003 (1.3% GDP).

Alcohol promotion and alcohol consumption
Alcohol marketing is a very well-funded, well-considered and persistent part of modern life (5). The alcohol beverage industry uses a broad range of marketing tools to which young people are exposed in everyday life. These tools result in a wide range of marketing practices that range from TV commercials to event sponsoring and from give-away promotional items to sponsoring and advertising in new media. Research showed that adolescents in Ireland are exposed to alcohol marketing by at least sixteen different communication channels (6).

Alcohol producers state their target groups are adolescents aged 21 to 24 (7). However, in practice large numbers of younger adolescents are exposed and appealed by alcohol marketing (8). With the introduction of inexpensive products such as alcopops, alcoholic energy drinks and pre-mixed cocktails, and with packaging and marketing that appeals young people, the alcohol industry intensified their focus on this group in recent years (9). Alcohol marketing targeting young people includes linking new developed products to youth lifestyle through music, fashion, use of animation and sports (9).

A systematic review of longitudinal studies concludes that exposure to alcohol marketing has a positive influence on the likelihood that young people will start drinking and that it increases the frequency and amount of drinking among those who already drink (10, 11). Furthermore, attractive alcohol marketing increases the likelihood of purchasing alcohol by adolescents and their consumption (12). Consequently, limiting amount of exposure to appealing alcohol advertisements can be an important factor in decreasing the harmful influences of alcohol marketing on young people’s drinking.

The FASE project
In 2007, the European Commission co-financed the FASE project. In this project, a literature study on effective alcohol marketing regulations was conducted. A review of 190 papers resulted in an overview of criteria that are essential in effective alcohol marketing policy. Special attention was paid to the protection of young people against the harmful influence of alcohol marketing practices. Additionally, alcohol marketing regulations of 23 European countries were gathered and evaluated, and the alcohol marketing regulations of six European countries were evaluated in greater detail. The following report will present a summary of the project’s findings and will provide information on effective alcohol marketing regulations and policy recommendations.

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