Declaration on Young People and Alcohol
The Stockholm Conference led to a Declaration
on Young People and Alcohol, which was agreed by all the health
ministries represented. This could form the basis of alcohol policy
across Europe for many years to come
The European Charter on Alcohol, adopted
by Member States in 1995, sets out the guiding principles and goals for
promoting and protecting the health and well-being of all people in the
Region. This Declaration aims to protect children and young people from
the pressures to drink and reduce the harm done to them directly or
indirectly by alcohol. The Declaration reaffirms the five principles of
the European Charter on Alcohol.
All people have the right to a family,
community and working life protected from accidents, violence and other
negative consequences of alcohol consumption.
All people have the right to valid
impartial information and education, starting early in life, on the
consequences of alcohol consumption on health, the family and society.
All children and adolescents have the
right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative
consequences of alcohol consumption and, to the extent possible, from
the promotion of alcoholic beverages.
All people with hazardous or harmful
alcohol consumption and members of their families have the right to
accessible treatment and care.
5. All people who do not wish to
consume alcohol, or who cannot do so for health or other reasons, have
the right to be safeguarded from pressures to drink and be supported in
their non-drinking behaviour.
Health and well-being are a fundamental
right of every human being. Protecting and promoting the health and
well-being of children and young people are central to the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and a vital part of WHO's
HEALTH21 policy framework and of UNICEF's mission. In relation to young
people and alcohol, WHO's European Alcohol Action Plan 2000-2005
identifies the need to provide supportive environments in the home,
educational institutions, the workplace and local community, to protect
young people from the pressures to drink and to reduce the breadth and
depth of alcohol-related harm. Further, a major opportunity for putting
youth and alcohol issues on the policy agenda is approaching as
governments worldwide prepare for the United Nations General Assembly
Special Session on Children, to be held in September 2001, with UNICEF
serving as secretariat.
The globalisation of media and markets is
increasingly shaping young people's perceptions, choices, and
behaviours. Many young people today have greater opportunities and more
disposable income but are more vulnerable to selling and marketing
techniques that have become more aggressive for consumer products and
potentially harmful substances such as alcohol. At the same time, the
predominance of the free market has eroded existing public health safety
nets in many countries and weakened social structures for young people.
Rapid social and economic transition, civil conflict, poverty,
homelessness and isolation have increased the likelihood of alcohol and
drugs playing a major and destructive role in many young people's lives.
The main trends in the drinking patterns
of young people are greater experimentation with alcohol among children
and increases in high-risk drinking patterns such as "binge drinking"
and drunkenness, especially among adolescents and young adults, and in
the mixing of alcohol with other psychoactive substances (polydrug use).
Among young people there are clear links between the use of alcohol,
tobacco and illegal drugs.
The cost of youth drinking
Young people are more vulnerable to
suffering physical, emotional and social harm from their own or other
peoples' drinking. There are strong links between high-risk drinking,
violence, unsafe sexual behaviour, traffic and other accidents,
permanent disabilities and death. The health, social and economic costs
of alcohol-related problems among young people impose a substantial
burden on society.
The health and well-being of many young
people today are being seriously threatened by the use of alcohol and
other psychoactive substances. From a public health perspective, the
message is clear: there is no scientific evidence for a safe limit of
alcohol consumption, and particularly not for children and young
adolescents, the most vulnerable groups. Many children are also victims
of the consequences of drinking by others, especially family members,
resulting in family breakdown, economic and emotional poverty, neglect,
abuse, violence and lost opportunities. Public health policies
concerning alcohol need to be formulated by public health interests,
without interference from commercial interests. One source of major
concern is the efforts made by the alcohol beverage industry and
hospitality sector to commercialise sport and youth culture by extensive
promotion and sponsorship.
By this Declaration, we, participants in
the WHO European Ministerial Conference on Young People and Alcohol,
call on all Member States, inter-governmental and non-governmental
organisations and other interested parties to advocate for and invest in
the health and well-being of young people, in order to ensure that they
enjoy a good quality of life and a vibrant future in terms of work,
leisure, family and community life.
Alcohol policies directed at young people
should be part of a broader societal response, since drinking among
young people to a large extent reflects the attitudes and practices of
the wider adult society. Young people are a resource and can contribute
positively to resolving alcohol-related problems.
To complement the broader societal
response, as outlined in the European Alcohol Action Plan 2000-2005, it
is now necessary to develop specific targets, policy measures and
support activities for young people. Member States will, as appropriate
in their differing cultures and social, legal and economic environments:
1. Set the following targets that should be achieved by the year 2006:
reduce substantially the number of young people who start consuming alcohol;
delay the age of onset of drinking by young people;
reduce substantially the occurrence and
frequency of high-risk drinking among young people, especially
adolescents and young adults;
provide and/or expand meaningful
alternatives to alcohol and drug use and increase education and training
for those who work with young people;
increase young people's involvement in youth health-related policies, especially alcohol-related issues;
increase education for young people on alcohol;
minimise the pressures on young people
to drink, especially in relation to alcohol promotions, free
distributions, advertising, sponsorship and availability, with
particular emphasis on special events;
support actions against the illegal sale of alcohol;
ensure and/or increase access to health
and counselling services, especially for young people with alcohol
problems and/or alcohol-dependent parents or family members;
reduce substantially alcohol-related
harm, especially accidents, assaults and violence, and particularly as
experienced by young people.
2. Promote a mix of effective alcohol policy measures in four broad areas:
Provide protection: Strengthen measures
to protect children and adolescents from exposure to alcohol promotion
and sponsorship. Ensure that manufacturers do not target alcohol
products at children and adolescents. Control alcohol availability by
addressing access, minimum age and economic measures, including pricing,
which influence under-age drinking. Provide protection and support for
children and adolescents whose parents and family members are
alcohol-dependent or who have alcohol-related problems.
Promote education: Raise awareness of
the effects of alcohol, in particular among young people. Develop health
promotion programmes that include alcohol issues in settings such as
educational institutions, workplaces, youth organisations and local
communities. These programmes should enable parents, teachers, peers and
youth leaders to help young people learn and practise life skills and
address the issues of social pressure and risk management. Furthermore,
young people should be empowered to take responsibilities as important
members of society.
Support environments: Create
opportunities where alternatives to the drink culture are encouraged and
favoured. Develop and encourage the role of the family in promoting the
health and well-being of young people. Ensure that schools and, where
possible, other educational institutions are alcohol-free environments.
Reduce harm: Promote a greater
understanding of the negative consequences of drinking for the
individual, the family and society. Within the drinking environment,
ensure training for those responsible for the serving of alcohol and
enact/enforce regulations to prohibit the sale of alcohol to minors and
intoxicated persons. Enforce drink-driving regulations and penalties.
Provide appropriate health and social services for young people who
experience problems as a result of other people's or their own drinking.
3. Establish a broad process to implement the strategies and achieve the targets:
Build political commitment by
developing comprehensive countrywide plans and strategies with young
people, with targets to reduce drinking and related harm, particularly
in the different segments of the youth population, and evaluate (with
young people) progress towards them.
Develop partnerships with young people
especially, through appropriate local networks. Look to young people as a
resource and promote opportunities for young people to participate in
shaping the decisions that affect their lives. Special emphasis should
be placed on reducing inequalities, particularly in health.
Develop a comprehensive approach to
addressing the social and health problems experienced by young people in
connection with alcohol, tobacco, drugs and other related issues.
Promote an inter-sectoral approach at national and local level, to
ensure a sustainable and more effective policy. When promoting the
health and well-being of young people, take into consideration their
varying social and cultural backgrounds, and particularly those of
groups with special needs.
Strengthen international cooperation
among Member States. Many of the policy measures need to be reinforced
at the international level, if they are to be fully effective. WHO will
provide leadership by establishing appropriate partnerships and
utilising its collaborative networks across the European Region. In this
regard, cooperation with the European Commission is of particular