A new national action plan has been launched to fight alcoholism in Switzerland. It aims to reduce the human suffering and damage to society which result from alcohol abuse.
The plan was put forward on Monday in Bern at a meeting organised by the Swiss federal commission for problems related to alcohol.
The commission president, Christine Beerli, told swissinfo that a significant minority of Swiss were adversely affected by alcohol.
"I think about 80 per cent of the Swiss population can consume alcohol without any problems, but some 20 per cent have a serious problem. It is a risk factor for health and the well-being of whole families."
Beerli, a Radical party member of the Swiss Senate, said the costs to society were an estimated SFr3 billion ($1.7 billion) a year. "This is a large amount and I think we have to do something to combat this."
The plan has three distinct pillars. The first is to inform alcohol consumers of possible dangers in a bid to prevent them from developing drinking problems, which could damage their health. Efforts will also be made to encourage consumers who drink too much to change their habits.
The second part of the plan aims to try and limit the damage caused by alcoholism, while the third will concentrate on rehabilitating alcoholics, or at least reducing their suffering.
The intention is to cut the number of people who are at risk, to guarantee optimal treatment of alcohol problems at the national level, and to promote solidarity concerning the costs of treatment and rehabilitation.
The plan is also intended to encourage discussion on alcoholism prevention and to motivate political decision-makers to take action.
The measures are not solely aimed at the federal, cantonal or communal levels, but also at schools and at the work place. Others included in the plan are the alcohol industry, hotels and restaurants, shops where alcohol is sold and the medical profession.
"We hope it will be very effective and we intend to re-examine the situation in five years' time," Beerli told swissinfo.
"It's always very difficult to measure the effectiveness of such a plan but I think that if we can manage to reduce costs and the number of people who are ill because of alcohol, we will have a had a big success," she added.
by Robert Brookes