In February 2021, the European Commission launched “Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan”. The ambitious plan aims to reduce the cancer burden in the European Union affecting patients, their families and health systems. The plan will address cancer related inequalities between and within EU Member States with actions to support, coordinate and complement Member States’ efforts.
Prevention in general and alcohol policy solutions in particular are central elements in the effort to beat cancer in the EU. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan contains the target of – at least – a 10% reduction in per capita alcohol use by 2025, as countries had already agreed in 2015 when adopting the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.
Movendi International and its member organizations played a constructive role throughout the development of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.
Movendi International engaged in advocacy work to support the European Commission in the development of the Cancer Plan. Movendi members participated in the EU consultation on the Cancer Plan between February and March 2020.
Especially IOGT-NTO and local members across Sweden actively engaged, contributed to the consultation and surely made a significant difference along with Movendi Slovakia and others.
Movendi International also worked with Member States to raise awareness and empower action to use alcohol policy potential for cancer prevention.
Towards the European Commission, Movendi International advocated for a stronger focus on alcohol taxation, cross-border alcohol trade issues, the need to protect (young) people from alcohol promotions and the urgency of improving recognition of the link between alcohol and cancer.
When Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan was released, Movendi International President Kristina Sperkova welcomed the plan:
We welcome Europe’s Beating Cancer Day and commend the European Commission for heeding the concerns, input and needs of our members and other European citizens. The new Cancer Plan is a good example of the public interest being prioritized before the alcohol industry’s profits,” says Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International.
The EU’s commitment to support member states to reduce population-level consumption is an important sign that alcohol policy is finally becoming the priority it should be. Using the alcohol policy best buys holds significant potential to protect of people from alcohol industry pressure.
High-impact alcohol policy means cancer prevention and health promotion.”Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International
Now, nine months later, the European Commission has released the long awaited implementation roadmap.
The roadmap to beat cancer in Europe
The roadmap contains five strategic areas and also addresses alcohol as major cause of cancer in the European Union. The roadmap contains six alcohol policy action to e developed and implemented as part of the effort to beat cancer.
- Putting research, innovation, and new technologies at the service of cancer prevention and care,
- Saving lives through sustainable cancer prevention Improving early detection of cancer,
- Ensuring high standards in cancer care Improving the quality of life for cancer patients, survivors, and carers,
- Reducing cancer inequalities across Europe, and
- Putting childhood cancer under the spotlight.
The second strategic area includes multiple actions on alcohol as a major cause of cancer in Europe.
|Review of EU legislation on taxation of alcohol||Impact Assessment||Commission proposal||Commission proposal adopted in 2022|
|Review of legal framework on cross border purchases of alcohol by private individuals||Impact Assessment||Commission proposal||Commission proposal adopted in 2022|
|Proposal for mandatory labelling of the list of ingredients and nutrition declaration on alcoholic beverage products||Impact Assessment||Impact Assessment, Commission proposal||Commission proposal on mandatory labelling of the list of ingredients and nutrition declaration adopted in 2022, as part of the proposal on the revision of the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation|
|Proposal for health warnings on alcoholic beverage products||Preparatory work, evidence gathering||Preparatory work, evidence gathering||Commission proposal||Commission proposal adopted in 2023|
|Implementation of evidence-based brief interventions||Implementation of brief interventions on alcohol and of alcohol consumption screening launched||On-going actions supported||On-going actions supported||On-going actions supported||Number of interventions implemented in Member States |
|Young people’s exposure to online marketing of alcoholic beverages Implementation of the Audiovisual Media Service Directive||Infringement procedures and conformity checks||1st Implementation Report||Infringement procedures and conformity checks||Infringement procedures and conformity checks||2nd Implementation Report||Number of infringement procedures; Report completed in 2022 and 2025|
To read the entire implementation plan, please click here (PDF).
Heavy cancer burden due to alcohol
In 2020, almost 4.8 million people in the WHO European Region developed cancer. Alcohol caused ca. 4.2% of all these cancer cases.
A recent study showed that alcohol use, including low-dose alcohol consumption, continues to cause a considerable cancer burden in Europe.
Low-dose alcohol consumption levels caused almost 23,000 new cancer cases in the EU in 2017, and accounted for 13.3% of all alcohol-attributable cancers. Almost half of these (∼11,000 cases) were female breast cancers.
Also, more than a third of the cancer cases due to low-dose alcohol use resulted from a level of less than 1 standard alcoholic drink per day (total: 37%; women: 40%; men: 32%).
Alcohol taxation to prevent cancer
Reducing the alcohol-attributable cancer burden in the WHO European Region is a public health priority. Another recent study projected the number of avoidable cancers in European countries in 2019 for three scenarios in which current alcohol excise duties were increased by 20%, 50%, or 100%.
Researchers found that doubling current alcohol excise taxes in the WHO European region could avoid almost 6% of new cancer cases and cancer deaths caused by alcohol (180,900 cases and 85,100 deaths) in the region.
Alcohol taxation, one of the actions included in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, is clearly a highly impactful, scientifically proven alcohol policy solution to help beat cancer in Europe.
Big Alcohol has already mobilized against Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan
Another solution is cancer warning labeling on alcohol products.
Earlier this year, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) podcast explored the alcohol policy measures contained in Europe’s Beating Cancer plan, with a focus on cancer warning labeling.
But the alcohol industry has already launched its lobbying campaign against the alcohol policy solutions in the Beating Cancer Plan. As early as March 2021, just a few days after the release Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, the alcohol industry launched its aggressive fight against labeling, using tactics of muddying the science and using their own corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives against this proven effective public health measure.