According to a funded study by EU, Europeans are the heaviest drinkers in the world with nearly 115,000 alcohol-related deaths reported costing about billions of euros in social and health expenditure.
Alcohol is responsible for 7.4 percent of all ill health and early deaths in the EU and is the third highest risk factor for ill health, ahead of obesity and behind only tobacco and high blood pressure.
Drinking causes some 60 different types of diseases and conditions, the report said.
It also stressed that a great part of the damage done by alcohol is borne by people other than the drinker. Alcohol-caused harm to non-drinkers includes 60,000 underweight births and up to 9 million children living in families with drinking problems.
An estimated 10,000 bystanders or passengers die annually because of drunk-drivers on Europe's roads.
'It is the children who pay the price of the last round,' said Derek Rutherford, Secretary of Brussels-based alcohol watchdog Eurocare.
With some 11 litres of pure alcohol drunk per adult each year, Europe is the heaviest drinking region of the world, the report said. An estimated 23 million Europeans (five percent of men and one percent of women) are addicted to alcohol.
According to the report, Norway has the strictest alcohol policy in the EU and Greece the most lax. However, drinking habits and levels throughout the continent are rather similar, it added.
Education and public awareness campaigns are not enough to curb the damage caused by alcohol, the report warned, calling for tougher rules on drunken-driving as well as on sales and marketing of alcohol.
Rutherford called for restricting alcohol advertising and for prohibiting sports sponsorship, which he said, 'is the most insidious marketing strategy of the alcohol industry'.
The report was funded by the European Commission and written by the London-based Institute of Alcohol Studies.
The commission said it will propose new measures on harmonising the rules of use, sales and advertising of alcohol across the EU, later this year.
(Source: IANS News)