Children's Champion Stands Up to Alcohol Industry

Published date: 
20 Sep 2009

Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, in her role as Rapporteur for the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), will today (Monday 21 September 2009) open the EU’s ‘Expert Conference on Alcohol and Health’ in Stockholm, where she will speak of the alcohol industry’s tactics to derail the EESC Opinion on Alcohol Related Harm.  On 1 September, the alcohol industry orchestrated a concerted campaign to dilute the EESC Opinion produced by Mrs van Turnhout, which calls, among other recommendations, for the restriction of alcohol advertising.  Despite numerous amendments organised by the alcohol industry, Mrs van Turnhout and her EESC colleagues stood firm and will now take the Opinion to the EESC Plenary at the end of September.

Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive, will tell expert delegates: ‘This was a David and Goliath battle, and we overcame the might of the alcohol industry.  No matter what they tell you, more alcohol is consumed in the EU than anywhere else on the globe, with each person drinking 11 litres of pure alcohol each year. True, most consumers in Ireland and the EU drink responsibly and for most of the time, but 15% – a staggering 55 million Europeans – drink harmful levels on a regular basis.  If harmful alcohol use is the third biggest cause of early death and illness in the EU, then this has dire consequences for our society and our economy.’  

The EESC Opinion suggests that alcohol advertising and marketing play a key role in shaping young people’s attitudes to, and perceptions of, alcohol; and it points to evidence demonstrating the adverse impact of alcohol advertising on the uptake of drinking among non-drinking young people and increased consumption among their peers.  

Mrs van Turnhout continues: ‘Through my work at the Children’s Rights Alliance in Ireland, it is very clear to me that alcohol marketing attracts underage drinkers; there are consistent findings that exposure to television and sponsorship, that contains alcohol, predicts the onset of youth drinking and increased drinking.  In fact, five to nine million children in the EU are adversely affected by alcohol.  I’ll put that into context for you: it is more children than the entire population of Scotland.

‘The destiny of Ireland – and Europe – depends on a healthy and productive population.  In the EESC and the Children’s Rights Alliance, we believe that the first step we can all take is to deal with the adverse impact of advertising and marketing on young people.  Self-regulation is simply not working and it is time we took a stand.’

Jillian van Turnhout shares the platform with Sweden’s Minister for Elderly Care and Public Health, the Regional Director of WHO Europe; and Ivan Eržen, the Republic of Slovenia’s Health Secretary. 


For further information, please contact:
Carys Thomas, Communications Director
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087 7702845; Fax: (01) 662 9355

Notes to Editor:

  1. Implementing the EU Alcohol Strategy to protect children, young people and the unborn child from alcohol-related harm is the Swedish EU Presidency’s number one target area. 
  2. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is a consultative body that gives the representatives of Europe’s employers, trade unions and other civil society organisations, a formal platform to express their points of views on EU issues. Its opinions are forwarded to the main institutions - the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. It thus has a key role to play in the Union’s decision-making process.
  3. This EESC exploratory opinion on ‘how to make the EU Strategy on Alcohol Related Harm sustainable, long-term and multisectoral’ was requested by the Swedish Minister for European Affairs on 18 December 2008, ahead of the current Swedish EU Presidency.  The EESC’s Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship Section adopted the Opinion on 1 September 2009.  It is due to be heard and voted on in Plenary at the end of September/early October 2009. 
  4. On 9 September, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Minister John Curran TD, who is responsible for the Government’s drugs policy, launched a new drugs report, which recognised Ireland’s most significant drugs crisis as alcohol abuse.  




Children's Rights Alliance