Why we don’t need to change the world’s drinking laws to save lives
The world’s top medical experts have warned that changes to drinking laws and other health and social policies that affect our drinking habits are “probably too late”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that a lack of investment in research into how to reduce harmful drinking habits could result in millions of deaths worldwide every year.
It has been a long time coming for those who are looking to reduce the risk of death or serious harm caused by alcohol, but the world is still at risk of thousands of premature deaths a year, said Dr Peter Kirby, chief executive of WHO.
“The world has been watching us for a long while, but we are still not there yet,” he said.
A number of countries have taken action, including in the UK and Germany, but WHO chief Margaret Chan said it was “likely too late” for change.
She said the agency had already made significant progress in reducing alcohol consumption worldwide, and was now in the process of addressing the causes of alcohol-related deaths.
Dr Kirby said there were two main areas of focus for the WHO: reducing the number of deaths from alcohol-associated diseases and alcohol-impaired driving.
He said the WHO would be taking a series of steps to address the latter in the coming years.
“It’s important to understand that there is no one solution for all drinking-related diseases, and we’re working towards the same goal in the area of alcohol,” Dr Kirby said.
“But we need to be doing more research and investing in research and education so that we can make sure that we’re taking action on reducing the impact of drinking on the health of people.”
Dr Kirby also said that, in the US, there were significant opportunities to help combat alcohol-induced traffic deaths, particularly in states where people drive at higher speeds.
“If we can find solutions to these drivers who are driving in states like that, that’s an area where there’s a lot of potential,” he added.
“The US is the world leader in driving deaths and that’s a problem in other countries.”
Dr Chan said that the WHO was working with the World Health Organization (WHO), and with international partners to identify and promote effective ways of reducing the risks associated with drinking.
In January, the World Bank said that it would allocate $6bn (£4.7bn) over three years for drinking prevention programmes, while the United Nations Development Programme said it would fund more than $1bn for the global fight against alcohol- and drug-related death.
The UN’s Development Programme also announced a new $1.6bn plan to tackle alcohol-based injury and death.