Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to address you in this Consultation Meeting on Policies Related with Alcohol Consumption organized by Alcohol Policy Youth Network (APYN).
I am the president of TGCS, the founder member of Turkish Alcohol Policy Platform, and my presentation this morning will be on ‘Civil Society Initiative in Alcohol Policy in Turkey: Practices and Proposals’.
The Green Crescent Society is the oldest public health organization which was established in 1920 in solidarity with international temperance movements which were significant mass movement during the post war years. TGCS, today, works not only in the field of alcohol, but tobacco, drug, gambling and technology addiction as well. The Green Crescent is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that empowers youth and adults with factual information about all kinds of addiction.
As a ninety-three year-old organization in the field of alcohol policy in Turkey, Green Crescent played historical role in fight against alcohol addiction. Today we have branches and representatives nearly in all provinces of Turkey. We have more than 3000 members and thousands of volunteers across the country.
The Green Crescent contributes to public health by improving evidence based prevention programs and arguing for legal, social and environmental change on fighting against addictions. Green Crescent fights against addictions that destruct the mental and physical health of youth in cooperation with private sector, governmental bodies and international organizations.
Green Crescent works to improve contemporary strategies in dealing with alcohol consumption and prevention of addiction by using evidence based and scientific methods. Green Crescent makes preventive, social and advocacy activities aiming to contribute to shape public opinion and raise awareness of general public and decision-makers.
Green Crescent advocates for a comprehensive alcohol policy with clear objectives and targets, combining behavioral and structural approaches.
As a public health organization we mostly use educational institutions for our preventive activities. There are Green Crescent Clubs in every secondary and high schools across the country. The Green Crescent Clubs work according to rules of Ministry of National Education with the help of the Green Crescent. Peer education activities are implemented through these clubs to keep children away from harmful habits.
Each year, anniversary of foundation of the Green Crescent, which is the first week of March, is celebrated as Green Crescent Week in Turkey. Syllabuses in primary, secondary and high schools cover the contents on harmful habits, addiction and Green Crescent concept during this week. There are great number of activities in schools across the country in that month. Green Crescent headquarter and branches launch several campaigns focused on young people during this month.
Green Crescent is a member organization of European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) and is the only organization representing our country in this regional umbrella organization. When we look at the statistics, alcohol consumption is in the highest level in Europe comparing with other regions. I believe that, as a candidate country to European Union we need more cooperation with European civil society in this field.
TGCS with its 93 years’ experience in alcohol policy field in Turkey has recently leaded to formation of a new platform named as Turkish Alcohol Policy Platform. Mostly public health and many other organizations from various sectors came together to establish that platform. Some of those founding NGOs are:
“Turkish Society of Public Health Specialists”,
”The Turkish Heart Foundation”,
“The Turkish Cardiology Association”,
“The Turkish Liver Foundation”
“The Foundation for Health and Social Services “
“Istanbul Traffic Foundation”,
“Turkish Association for the Prevention of Traffic Accidents”,
“The Consumers’ Union”,
“The Federation of Consumer Organisations”
“The Movement for Health and Nutrition Safety”
“Syndicate for Health Labors”
Other than Civil Society, a few governmental institutions also involved in the platform in an observer status:
“The Ministry of Youth and Sport”,
“The Ministry of Health”,
“The Ministry of Family and Social Policies”
“Turkish Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority”.
The platform will help to develop contemporary strategies on alcohol policy in national level.
Last but not the least, we have recently organized the Global Alcohol Policy Symposium in Istanbul on twenty-fifth of April which co-sponsored by WHO. Prime Minister of Turkey, H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO participated to official opening ceremony of the Symposium.
Scientists, Decision Makers, WHO focal points in European Region, representatives from civil society and public health sector from more than sixty countries have participated to the Symposium. The main issues discussed in the symposium are:
- Alcohol consumption and harms in national and international level,
- the involvement of NGO’s in alcohol policy,
- European action plans and implementation of European alcohol strategies,
- Impact of direct and indirect alcohol advertisement, promotion and sponsorship on youth,
- Alcohol market regulation,
- Alcohol taxation and price policies,
In addition, several country experiences and good practices have been shared during the symposium.
With this “Global Alcohol Policy Symposium” we intended to increase awareness about the dangers of alcohol use for individuals and societies and to compare experiences from various countries to find the most effective practices.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Alcohol consumption, as one of three primary public health problems of the world, is the third basic reason for preventable deaths and injuries on global basis. Over three hundred thousand people between the ages 15-29 lose their lives for alcohol related reasons every year in the world. Apart from being an addictive substance, alcohol is a public health problem known as the reason for 60 different diseases and conditions, injuries, mental and behavioral disorders including digestive system diseases, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, immunity disorders, lung diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, gonadal dysfunctions, and increasing risk of premature and low weight births.
Though it is a toxin damaging all organs and systems in human body, alcoholic drinks are marketed by alcohol industry with many different marketing methods and channels. There is strong evidence that alcohol industry particularly does youth-oriented marketing.
Practices in the world have shown that it is possible to decrease the harms of alcohol by evidence-based and cost-effective interventions. Though the positive reflections of these interventions to sociality, economics, and health have been observed on the basis of countries, there is still need for global cooperation and solidarity to decrease the harm and solve the problems. It will be a great gain for public health to start the works and attempts required for international alcohol control framework convention to prevent the harms of alcohol.
It is known that there is no safe level of alcohol use especially for young people. Many of negative outcomes of alcohol consumption could be prevented by adopting influential alcohol policies.
Having said that, we are calling all national and international organizations, non-governmental organizations, national and international state agencies, society and individuals to take an action in order to prevent and decrease the alcohol related harms.
For the suggestions and recommendations of Green Crescent, briefly we can say that;
- evidence-based practices must be implemented to prevent the harms caused by alcohol in national and international level,
- We suggest that prices of alcoholic drinks must be raised in order to protect the children and teenagers in particular,
- Regulating and limiting the accessibility of alcoholic drinks particularly for children and teenagers
- Preventive rules and implementations must be conducted to protect the families and children.
- Treatment and early intervention activities must be supported,
- All forms of commercial communications and advertisement on alcohol should be banned,
- Current minimum age purchase laws must be implemented influentially,
- Since young people are exposed to all sorts of advertising, educational programs must be regulated to change drinking behavior of young people.
- Increase the role of youth involvement in alcohol policy and raise awareness of youth against the influence of industrial advertisement.
Once again I would like to thank the organizing committee of this important meeting for giving me this opportunity, and would like to express my pleasure to witness the interest of youth to alcohol policy in a global level.