Europe has the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world and smoking is responsible for 15-20% of all European cancer cases. Alcohol-attributable cancer is a major health concern in Europe. In spite of this, awareness of alcohol as a risk factor for cancer is low. Strengthening alcohol control policies is necessary to prevent alcohol-attributable cancer cases and deaths. The Commission will therefore support Member States to implement a wide range of policies such as reductions in alcohol affordability and availability, limits on advertising and promotion, and raising awareness about the risk of alcohol consumption and cancer.
In addition, the Commission will review EU legislation on the taxation of alcohol. It will also review EU tax legislation on the cross-border purchase of alcohol products. A public consultation is currently ongoing on this matter.
How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?
What actions will Cancer plan take on tobacco?
Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer. Cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco use is responsible for 15-20% of all European cancer cases, making this the top avoidable risk factor. As well as dealing with traditional tobacco products, addressing the next generation of tobacco and related products will remain a priority as new products such as heated tobacco and others continue to enter the market. Young people need to be protected from picking up lasting habits that are damaging to health.
The Cancer Plan will put forward actions to help create a ‘Tobacco-Free Generation’ by taking a comprehensive approach to tobacco, including:
a review of the Tobacco Products Directive to make product regulation stricter,
reviewing the Tobacco Taxation Directive in order to revise EU minima taxation rates for tobacco products and to harmonise the taxation of novel products,
reviewing EU tax legislation on cross-border purchases of tobacco products: a public consultation is currently ongoing on this matter,
addressing tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship in social media and online services, and,
supporting Member States in implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Smoking is responsible for 15-20% of all European cancer cases
A whole-of-society effort. In a strong European Health Union, cancer becomes a shared political, operational and scientific priority.
The Commission will propose an update to the Council Recommendation on Smoke-Free Environments and recommend extending its coverage to emerging products, such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products. The Cancer Plan will also give new impetus for Member States to improve the enforcement of existing legislation within their overall tobacco control strategies, including sales to minors and smoking cessation campaigns.
What actions will Cancer plan take on food?
Diet can influence cancer risk many years before the diagnosis of cancer, already during childhood. Diets with ample intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of refined grains, and low intake of red meat and processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and salt will reduce the risk not only of cancer, but also of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and overall mortality.
The Commission will evaluate the 2014-2020 EU Action Plan on Childhood Obesity and propose a follow-up. There will be strong synergies with the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Commission will propose a revision of the EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme to make healthy products more available to children.
The Commission is undertaking a review of the promotion policy for agricultural products, with a view to enhancing its contribution to sustainable production and consumption, and in line with the shift to a more plant-based diet, with less red and processed meat and other foods linked to cancer risks and more fruit and vegetables.
The Cancer Plan will launch the ‘HealthyLifestyle4All’ campaign in 2021, involving key sectors promoting sport, physical activity and healthy diets.
The Commission will establish the EU Cancer Plan Implementation Group, to align actions and policies across the European Commission and other EU institutions. The group will set out an implementation roadmap which will in more detail specify the different steps for implementing the actions outlined in the plan.
The group will meet regularly to discuss and review implementation of the Cancer Plan on the basis of the roadmap. The Group will also work closely with the European Parliament, the Member States, the Horizon Europe Cancer Mission Board and a stakeholder contact group to be established under the Commission’s Health Policy Platform.
To monitor cancer trends and progress with the Plan, the Commission will also regularly collect and publish relevant cancer data through the European Cancer Information System, which will feed also into the Cancer Inequalities Registry.
What is the time span of the plan?
There is no end date for the plan, but it will be regularly reviewed for the first time by the end of 2024. This review will assess whether the actions taken are sufficient to achieve the objectives, or whether additional measures are necessary.
The Cancer Plan will already be examined by the Member States at a Health Ministers’ meeting scheduled during the Portuguese Presidency of the EU. The Commission will continue to work together with the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA).