The month of the World Cup has aggravated the problem of heavy drinking throughout Europe. Germany's drug commissioner says all the alcohol advertising doesn't help -- and could be hurting kids.
Fun and sporty, the ads say, but it can be deadly too
On Monday, Maria Eichhorn, the drug commissioner from the conservative Union bloc, said it was time for adults to serve as role models for children when it comes to alcohol, and not act in ways that encourage kids to start drinking at younger and younger ages.
"It's incomprehensible that celebrities are advertising alcohol at the World Cup and put across the idea that alcohol and sports belong together," she said. "Especially for children and youth, who imitate their idols, this is the wrong message."
While the World Cup is an international celebration, for many, it's also an international drinking fest. Calls to ambulance services and the police have jumped after each game. But EU governments, and Germany's is no exception, have been reluctant to regulate drinking. For one, because drinking is deeply rooted in many cultures -- think wine in France or beer in Germany -- and two, because alcohol is a huge industry for the bloc. The EU produces more than a quarter of the world's alcohol and more than half of its wine.
"There is good evidence of how to solve this problem and what policy measures reduce it," Peter Anderson, a public health consultant who authored a recent report finding that the EU has a serious drinking problem, told the International Herald Tribune. "You need limits on marketing, you need to raise taxes and you need to enforce purchase ages."
World Cup Spike
The first Saturday of this World Cup was the busiest of the year for the London Ambulance Service of Britain's National Health Service, according to a spokeswoman for the service. Operators received more than 5,000 calls, compared with 3,500 on a normal day. Many of them were alcohol related.
Youth drinking is a problem all over the EU
Experts aren't just concerned about limited alcohol intake. On the occasion of International Anti-Drug Day on Monday, Green party drug expert Harald Terpe called for extending legal limits on tobacco advertising to alcohol.
But the alcohol industry is very critical of any considerations to limit alcohol advertising, saying that restricting ads is ineffective in controlling problem or binge drinking. "Any successful public policy on alcohol needs to reflect that fact that a majority of adults who choose to drink, to so responsibly," said a statement by the European Forum for Responsible Drinking, an industry group. "Any proposed solutions must target harm and not alcohol per se."