Distinguished Participants, Dear Friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s a great honor and privilege for me to be here today in Moldova for the Regional European Alcohol Policy Youth Conference (REAPYC).
As you all know, 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 fifteen and twenty-nine 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. In addition, alcohol is associated with many serious social and developmental issues, including violence, child neglect and abuse, and absenteeism in the workplace.
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. 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 a well-known fact that the alcohol industry targets young people and influences their drinking patterns. Exposure to alcohol marketing, advertising and sponsorships in young ages increases the early initiation of alcohol.
However, WHO European Charter on Alcohol states that “All children and adolescents have the right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative consequences of alcohol consumption and to the extent possible, from the promotion of alcoholic beverages”.
To avoid industrial influence on youth, increasing the role of youth involvement in alcohol policy and raising awareness of youth against the influence of industrial advertisement are crucial.
In the efforts of reducing harms of alcohol, we faces new challenges such as technological innovation and virtual advertising that cross international borders. Since the modern alcohol advertising knows no frontiers; strict controls on marketing, advertising and sponsorship of the alcohol industry are very crucial to prevent the youth from negative consequences of alcohol use.
I believe that the Regional European Alcohol Policy Youth Conference will be a good example for the youth involvement in alcohol policy and provides support for the reducing the harms of alcohol in regional level.
Today, I will mention about the new alcohol policy law which was adopted this year in Turkey.
Alcohol policy in Turkey is mostly based on 4250 (forty-two fifty) numbered law which was enacted in 1942 in the monopoly period. This law adopts some rules on alcohol marketing regulation but mostly, away from contemporary public health principles.
At last, the Turkish Government has prepared a new draft law, numbered 6487 (sixty-four eighty-seven) on alcohol policy within the framework of “The National Alcohol Control Action Plan”. The bill was proposed and prepared by the Ministry of Health and was approved in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on 24th of May this year. President Abdullah Gül approved the law on 10th of June and the law was started to be implemented on 10th of September.
According to this new law, campaigns, promotions or events that aim to encourage the use or sale of alcohol are limited especially for the young people.
The new regulation firstly limits the advertisement of alcohol beverages in printed and visual media;
- All kinds of advertising and promotion of alcoholic beverages is prohibited,
- Campaigns, promotions or events that aim to encourage the use or sale of these products will not be allowed,
- Companies that produce, import or market alcoholic beverages will not be permitted to be sponsor for events by using the brand or logo of their products,
- It makes obligatory to be placed warning labels and statements on the bottles of alcohol drinks,
Secondly, it limits the availability of alcohol drinks;
- The sale of alcoholic beverages will be banned between the 10 pm and 6 am.
- Alcohol beverages will not be sold to individuals under the age of 18.
- Alcohol beverages cannot be sold in motorway service areas, gas stations, gyms, and public institutions.
- The individuals under the age of 18 will not be allowed to be employed in the production, sale and marketing of alcoholic beverages,
- The shops selling alcoholic beverages will need to be at least 100 meters away from schools, universities, student dormitories and places of worship.
(The 100-meter obligation will not apply to facilities that have a tourism certificate. The shops that already have a license to sell alcoholic beverages will be exempted from this 100-meter obligation.)
Thirdly, it adopts heavy penalties for the drunk driving, and severe sanctions for the violations of these principles.
When we consider the new alcohol law from public health point of view, we see that the restrictions are in line with the guidelines of WHO and the other public health organizations. WHO and the public health community recommend reducing physical availability of alcohol, restricting or banning alcohol advertising and promotion, and raising the price of alcohol. These are all the most effective ways suggested by WHO to reduce the burden of harmful use of alcohol.
Unfortunately, the new alcohol law became a political instrument between the ruling and the opposition political parties in Turkey. The new law faced very strong objections from the secularist segments of the society which believe that it deliberately restricts their freedom and it is an intervention into their life style. Industrial involvement and lobbying increased the reaction against regulations. Industry propagates that the alcohol regulations are religious based and mostly violate people’s freedom. However when the regulations are examined closely, the principles that were adopted with the law are the basic guidelines of WHO.
I am the president of the Turkish Green Crescent Society. The Green Crescent is the oldest public health organization in Turkey which was established in 1920. As a member organization to EUROCARE (European Alcohol Policy Alliance), we have recently implemented two important strategic attempts to help the development of the alcohol policy in our country.
The first one is TAPP.
As a Non-governmental organization, we have established the Turkish Alcohol Policy Platform. Being the majority of those from the public health, many organizations from various sectors came together under the platform and currently 30 different organizations are the members of it.
TAPP includes organizations from various sectors, such as the
- Turkish Society of Public Health,
- Turkish Heart Foundation,
- Turkish Society of Cardiology,
- Turkish Liver Foundation,
- “Life” Foundation for Health and Social Services,
- Istanbul Traffic Foundation,
- Turkey Traffic Accident Prevention Organization,
- Consumers Union,
- Federation of Consumer Organizations,
- Health and Food Safety Organization
Official institutions also were involved in TAPP including;
- Ministry of Youth and Sports,
- Ministry of Health,
- Ministry of Family and Social Affairs,
- Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority.
Secondly, we have organized an international symposium in Istanbul. Global Alcohol Policy Symposium held in Istanbul on April 2013 which was co-sponsored by World Health Organization. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr Margaret Chan honored the Symposium. Many scientists, decision makers, WHO focal points from Europe, representatives of the civil society and the public health sector from more than sixty countries have participated in this Symposium, as well as Ministers of Health of four different countries and three other Turkish Ministers. Several countries shared their experiences and good practices during the symposium.
With this “Global Alcohol Policy Symposium”, we intended to increase awareness about the dangers of alcohol consumption for individuals and societies, and to compare experiences from various countries in order to find the most effective practices.
Both TAPP and Global Alcohol Policy Symposium provided important base for the adoption of the new alcohol law in Turkey. As an advocate organization, we have tried to push decision makers to enact this law with the scientific and evidence-based public health principals.
Apart from Global Alcohol Policy Symposium and leading Turkish Alcohol Policy Platform, Turkish Green Crescent Society has launched many important campaigns and projects to increase awareness during this period.
Regarding the regional level, Turkey as a candidate country of European Union and it is mostly influenced by the regional alcohol policies. European region has the highest alcohol consumption in the world. To seek a solution we need more solidarity and cooperation for the sake of future expectations of European region.
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 regional as well as a global level.