The plenary also debated and adopted an exploratory opinion drafted by Jillian van Turnhout (Irish, Various Interests Group) on alcohol-related harm in European society. An ‘initiative’ opinion, like Lars Nyberg’s (see previous post) is one that the Committee adopts of its own initiative because it feels strongly that civil society organisations have something to say on a matter. An exploratory opinion, on the other hand, is an opinion asked of the Committee by another institution or the Presidency – in this case, the Swedish Presidency – because there is a possibility of legislation and the institution/Presidency wants to know what civil society organisations think on the matter before going further. Van Turnhout’s opinion made for sobering reading (pardon the pun). Harmful alcohol use is the third biggest cause of early illness and death in the EU. Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for approximately 195,000 deaths a year due to accidents, liver diseases, cancers and the like. Van Turnhout, who is Chief Executive of the Irish Childrens’ Rights Alliance, placed particular emphasis on protecting children. Research shows that almost 9 million children in the EU are adversely affected in some way by alcohol. Because of this, the opinion calls for a reduction in the exposure of children to alcohol marketing as well as more effective regulation of the availability and distribution of alcohol, as self regulation in this area is not enough. And if you go into most corner shops in the EU you’ll see the truth of that.