The EU wants to stop binge drinking by slapping extra tax on our booze. (The Sun, 22 February 2006, p.2)
The Sun confuses two issues here: taxation and health concerns related to alcohol. The European Commission is looking at both issues separately, at the request by the relevant ministers in the EU member states (including the UK).
On taxation: The member states’ finance ministers asked in April 2005 the Commission to draw up a proposal to adjust the minimum rates of excise duty on alcohol in line with inflation. This was last done in 1992.
On health: The European Commission does not have the power, nor does it seek the power, to impose restrictions on the sale of alcohol. However, the member states have requested the Commission to prepare a paper on alcohol related harm and to come up with concrete proposals to address problems related to alcohol and young people. Commissioner for health and consumer affairs Markus Kyprianou is concerned about the negative health and social effects which excessive consumption of alcohol can cause (e.g. heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, drink driving) – one in four deaths in car accidents is related to drink driving. He is keen to protect young people in particular from these negative effects.