The parliamentary health committee held a hearing on March 3, 2021 to discuss Germany’s alcohol policy.
On the agenda of the hearing were different topics: the harm caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry, the gaps in the country’s alcohol policy, and the potential of alcohol policy solutions for public health and society overall. Effective policy solutions, specifically in the COVID-19 context, were explored, too.

For one hour, the committee members interviewed experts in various fields regarding alcohol prevention. The conclusion was that there are evidence-based, cost-effective policy solutions available to reduce and prevent alcohol harm in Germany. What is lacking is political will in Germany and the EU to advance action to solve these problems.

… we have scientific evidence that shows what is necessary to shape effective alcohol prevention,” said Christine Kreider from the German Central Office for Addiction Questions, as per Alkoholpolitik.

Unfortunately, not enough attention is paid to this scientific evidence, it is not implemented – this is also due to economic particular interests, which are given priority over health damage. This is frustrating.”

Christine Kreider, German Central Office for Addiction Questions

Key elements highlighted in the hearing

The conversation in the parliamentary committee addressed two key topics: alcohol issues in German society and available, proven solutions where action is still lacking.

Alcohol issues in Germany

  • Alcohol increases inequality. This was specifically brought into focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. People who experience pandemic-related stress, especially women with multiple stressors, those who lost jobs due to the pandemic and those who already had alcohol use problems were found to have increased alcohol use during COVID-19.
  • Alcohol causes problems not only at the individual level, but also at the societal level.
  • Alcohol disproportionately harms youth whose brains are still developing.
  • Awareness of alcohol harms in German society is low. For example many people do not know alcohol causes cancer.
  • There is a necessity to change the German alcohol norm on the long-term.
  • Alcohol advertising is normalizing alcohol as a part of life. It is proven that alcohol advertising promotes initiation among youth, and also increases the amount of alcohol use and intoxication. The more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising, the more consume, and more heavily.
  • Self-regulation of advertising by the alcohol industry has failed. The restrictions are too weak, few companies actually adhere to the regulations, and many violate their own rules.

Solutions are available but more action is needed to implement proven, high-impact solutions

  • There are effective alcohol policies, which are backed by science, available to tackle current alcohol problems in Germany. 
  • There is a lack of attention paid to these policy solutions and the existing evidence. Economic interests are prioritized over public health – to the detriment of people, communities and society overall.
  • A coordinated package of measures addressing advertising, pricing and availability must be implemented to tackle harm caused by alcohol products.
  • The Government must focus on alcohol prevention action to reduce harm caused by alcohol products.
  • An alcohol advertising ban is an important building block as it targets the alcohol norm.

Since we do not have a consistent alcohol control policy, I would like strong emphasis to be placed on proportional prevention as well,” said Prof. Dr. Heino Stöver from the Institute for Addiction Research Frankfurt am Main (ISFF), as per Alkoholpolitik.

The alcohol advertising ban would be an important building block, because advertising builds alcohol as a lifestyle product.”

Prof. Dr. Heino Stöver, Institute for Addiction Research Frankfurt am Main (ISFF)

For further reading

Study: Germany Has an Alcohol Problem

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