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Should Governments Regulate Alcohol Use?

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A University of Oxford researcher is calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to put policies in place that would regulate alcohol use.

Devi Sridhar, a lecturer in global health politics, wrote that WHO should treat dangerous drinking as a global public health crisis, just as the agency treats disease outbreaks and tobacco use. The WHO, she said, requires countries to report outbreaks of certain diseases and could institutes policies requiring member nations to take measures designed to curb tobacco’s supply and demand.

“About 2.5 million deaths a year, almost 4 percent of all deaths worldwide, are attributed to alcohol -- more than the number of deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria,” Sridhar wrote in her commentary, published in the journal Nature.

In 2010, WHO published a document, "The WHO Global Strategy to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol," that included strategies such as prohibiting “unlimited drinks” promotions and instituting a minimum age to purchase alcohol.  These recommendations, Sridhar argued, should become legal requirements.

Excessive drinking is also a major public health issue in the U.S.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive drinking cost the U.S. $223.5 billion in 2006.  Losses in workplace productivity, illnesses caused by too much drinking, and motor vehicle accidents made up most of the burden.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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