In the past year, the BECA-committee has worked on establishing a set of concrete public health policy recommendations in order to strengthen the EU’s resilience against cancer. These recommendations have been put forward in an Own-Initiative report (INI-report) titled “Strengthening Europe in the fight against cancer”. The report as a whole was adopted with 29 votes in favor, one against and four abstentions.
Our main lever of action is based on ambitious, multidisciplinary, independent, coordinated and adequately funded European research, relying heavily on data sharing and artificial intelligence,” said BECA Rapporteur Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew Europe, FR).
Prevention, care and research will be ensured by a European Knowledge Centre, which constitutes a virtual ‘European Cancer Institute’.”Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew Europe, FR), BECA Rapporteur
Alcohol policy measures highlighted in the report
The recommendations concerning alcohol are a positive step in the right direction towards better cancer prevention through alcohol policy. The report spotlights different aspects of alcohol policy measures, ranging from introducing health warnings on alcohol beverages, recognizing that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, and advocating for prohibition of alcohol sponsorship of sports.
- BECA welcomes the European Commission’s target of achieving a reduction of at least 10% in per capita alcohol use by 2025.
- BECA recalls that alcohol consumption is a risk factor for many different cancers.
- BECA recalls the study referred to by WHO which recognizes that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption when it comes to cancer prevention.
- BECA supports labelling of alcohol beverages to include health warning labels (on-label or digitally).
- BECA supports mandatory labelling of alcohol beverages to include a list of ingredients and nutritional information (on-label or digitally).
- BECA calls for the prohibition of alcohol advertising at sports events when those events are mainly attended by minors.
- BECA calls for the prohibition of alcohol sponsorship of sports.
- BECA considers it important to protect minors from commercial communication on alcohol consumption, including in the digital environment.
- BECA considers it important to protect minors from product placement and sponsorship of alcoholic brands, including in the digital environment.
What is an Own-Initiative Report, and why is it important?
An Own Initiative Report (INI-report) is a report by the European Parliament. A parliamentary committee proposes a report on an issue that it feels requires new EU legislation and attention. When the parliamentary committee has reached a committee agreement, the report is submitted to the plenary where it will be voted upon by all Members of the European Parliament for adoption.
The report is advisory by nature; thus, it does not possess any legal weight. Despite this, INI-reports are seen as an important precursor to EU legislative procedures being initiated.
The “Strengthening Europe in the fight against cancer”-report put forward by the BECA-committee has provided a robust foundation that will drive future public health policy. What’s more, the report establishes that alcohol policy is a key element of cancer prevention in the European Union. Thus, upcoming legislative discussions cannot ignore the alcohol policy solutions presented in the report in future legislative documents.
BECA-member Antoni Comín I Oliveres emphasizes the weight of the latest report:
The Commission will not be able to ignore this report.”Antoni COMÍN I OLIVERES, Member of the European Parliament, Spain
Exposing Big Alcohol Interference in public health policy
Big Alcohol has long been an obstacle to the implementation of evidence-based alcohol policy solutions in the European Parliament. Some member states, especially wine-producing countries, often put Big Alcohol’s profits over public health and welfare. That conflict of interest has often derailed evidence-based policy-making.
The alcohol industry lobby has also interfered in the development of the new BECA-report.
During the policy negotiations Big Alcohol and their lobbyists in the parliament have managed to water down alcohol policy measures in a way that undermines data and science. Moreover, Big Alcohol has tried to minimize
the link between alcohol and cancer. s
The products and practices of Big Alcohol are a great public health concern.
- In Europe, breast cancer is the most frequent diagnosed type of cancer and alcohol is one of the biggest risk factors behind it.
Increased alcohol consumption leads to increased negative health impacts, but also to increased sales for the alcohol industry, placing public health interests in an inherent and direct conflict with corporate interests.
As soon as Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan was announced, the alcohol industry began to lobby against its alcohol policy provisions. For example, the alcohol lobby mobilized immediately against the recommendation to implement cancer warning labeling on alcohol products in the EU.
Therefore, the World Health Organization and its Global Alcohol Strategy recommend that the alcohol industry is not involved in public health policy making, such as the BECA-negotiations.
But the alcohol industry has already attacked the BECA-report. Especially Big Wine, through their lobby front groups “Wine in Moderation” and “Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins” has lashed out against the report immediately. Big Wine has deployed attacks against the landmark Global Burden of Disease study that established the latest scientific knowledge, showing that any amount of alcohol use increases the cancer risk; and against the concept of “no safe amount of alcohol use”.
Attacking science and sowing doubt about proven scientific findings is a major strategy of the alcohol industry. Shifting the blame for alcohol harm from their products to the consumers is another well-documented strategy.
The “Strengthening Europe in the fight against cancer”-report will now be sent to the plenary of the European Parliament for a final vote in February 2022.
For more information and further reading
What is the Special Committee on Beating Cancer?
In June 2020, the European Parliament established the Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA), as part of EU’s larger efforts of strengthening the fight against cancer in Europe.
The committee is made up of 33 members of parliament, under the direction of the Chair Bartosz Arłukowicz (EPP, PL) and Rapporteur Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew Europe, FR).
Through the past year, the committee has investigated actions and policies the EU can support and undertake to beat cancer. In doing so, the committee has organized consultations through public hearings with multiple high-level experts, exchanged views with national parliaments and with international organizations such as the WHO.
The BECA-committee’s mandate will end on December 23, 2021.