Should we put health warnings on alcohol beverages, as for cigarette packs? That’s the question that PROTECT, a project funded by the European Commission, tries to answer. Alcohol consumption is very common and harmful in Europe, especially among young people. A 2009 Eurobarometer survey showed that one third of 15-24 years old Europeans binge drink (more than 5 drinks on one occasion) at least once a week, more than any other age group. 
While alcohol is known to present very serious health hazards, both on the short term (road accidents, risky behaviors…) and on the long term (addiction, cirrhosis, cancers…).
PROTECT aims at collecting and disseminating science-based information regarding the usefulness of health warnings on alcoholic beverages. Through a network of European partners, interviews with young people were conducted, scientific literature, best practices and relevant laws in Europe were reviewed, debates with stakeholders were planned. The overall objectives were to create a supportive environment to help prevent the harmful use of alcohol amongst young people as well as establishing social understanding that alcohol is a special and hazardous commodity.

Specific objectives
-          To conduct focus groups, among 18-25 years old youngsters, in 6 European countries (Belgium, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and Spain). Focus groups are structured discussions which provide insights into consumer’s behaviour. The results of this survey will serve as a baseline for the European labelling policy, currently under revision.
-          To review health labelling practices. The Catholic University of Applied Science Cologne, in close cooperation with Eurocare (European network of NGOs), reviewed practices related to health warnings and information on alcoholic beverages in Europe, both at the government and industry levels. These regulatory and voluntary measures considerably increased since the European Commission adopted a strategy on alcohol in 2006. Alcohol policy makers will be able to quickly find here a comprehensive overview of relevant laws and practices.
-          To open a debate with all stakeholders. For this purpose, a stakeholder meeting took place on the 17th of March in the European parliament in Brussels. Representative from the European institutions, consumer organisations, NGOs and the industry were able to exchange around alcohol labelling policies.

PROTECT is a partnership from six consumer organisations (CRIOC – Belgium, INC – France, LNCF – Lithuania, OFE / NACPH – Hungary, ANPCPPS – Romania, MAG – Spain) as well as a NGO (EUROCARE) and an university (Catholic University of Applied Science North Rhine-Westphalia, Cologne). It is funded by the European Commission, with the operational help of the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers. For a more detailed description of each of the partners involved, please click here.