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alcohol webinar series square 2

The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Unit is coordinating a series of monthly webinars on Alcohol and Health throughout 2019. The webinar series is aimed at disseminating up-to-date and accurate information about alcohol epidemiology, harms, policies and research in the Region of the Americas and globally, which in turn can be used for advocacy, policy development and implementation. 

Register to the series to receive the invitations and the recordings and presentations of the webinars. 

alcohol header burden americas

September 2018

Alcohol is causally linked to over 200 health conditions, including liver diseases, road injuries, violence, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, suicides, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Its impact is detrimental in every country in the Region; the less developed a country is, the higher the relative burden of alcohol. But where consumption is highest, the burden of disease and injury is heaviest. The Region of the Americas ranks as the second highest in consumption and in burden of alcohol, after the European Region. Alcohol consumption is expected to increase if the most effective policies are not implemented.

In 2016

  • Alcohol was responsible for 5.5% of all deaths in the Americas, and 6.7% of all disability-adjusted life years.
  • 54% of the total population are current drinkers, 29% are life abstainers, and 17% are former drinkers.
  • Fewer people are drinking now, but those who do are drinking more.
  • Annual per capita consumption among people over 15 years of age was 8.0 liters.
  • Annual per capita consumption among DRINKERS was 15.1 liters
    • On average, each drinker has 2.3 drinks* every day of the year. Among male drinkers, the average is 4.3 drinks daily. Among women, it is 1.4 drinks per day every day of the year.
  • 40.5% of all current drinkers are HEAVY EPISODIC DRINKERS (they drink at least 5 drinks per occasion at least monthly).
    • 21.3% of the total population over 15 years old are heavy episodic drinkers.
    • 18.3% of adolescents aged 15-19 years are heavy episodic drinkers.
  • 8.2% of the general population over 15 years old has an ALCOHOL USE DISORDER:

*One drink is equivalent to a can of beer (355 ml), a glass of wine (150 ml) or a shot of distilled spirits (40 ml).


  • 5/35 countries have physical restrictions on the availability of alcohol (days, places, density of outlets, sales to minors enforced).
  • 12/35 countries have blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits at or below 0.05% for the general population.
  • 2/35 countries reported substantial or high coverage of treatment for alcohol dependence; most do not know treatment coverage.
  • 1/35 countries have comprehensive marketing restrictions.
  • 8/35 countries have excise taxes adjusted for inflation.

This infographic shows the specific ways in which women's health is impacted by their consumption of alcohol, including an increased risk of cancer, injury, and pregnancy complications. In contrast to persistent myths surrounding alcohol's health benefits, many of these conditions are associated with small quantities of alcohol. Women in general tend to suffer more health problems than men at lower levels of consumption, in part due to biological factors. In the Americas, women are drinking more and more often and present the highest estimated prevalence of alcohol use disorders in the world.

  • Women who become pregnant should not drink alcohol given that it is harmful to the fetus.
  • Women and men alike should decrease their consumption of alcohol to reduce the risk of harm.

Download the infographic:

pdf English   |   pdf Spanish   |   pdf Portuguese

Alcohol women health EN reverso

Alcohol women health EN anverso

technicalnote alcohol coverAlcohol marketing is widespread in the Americas, with modern marketing techniques that go beyond traditional print and electronic media advertisements to include branded merchandise, sponsorships of sporting teams and events, discount pricing, social media, and sales or supply at educational or health establishments.   

Studies have found that the more young people are exposed to alcohol marketing, the more likely they are to start drinking earlier, and to drink more if they are already drinking. The harmful use of alcohol is one of the four most common preventable risk factors for major noncommunicable diseases and an important risk factor for violence and injury. It also has an impact on other health conditions including HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, as well as on economic and social development.

Two key PAHO publications and a special supplement of the journal Addiction summarize the evidence, provide examples and propose ways countries can strictly regulate alcohol marketing, when a total ban is not achievable.

Background on alcohol marketing regulation and monitoring for the protection of public health

Thumb Technote Alcohol MarketingOverview:

This document provides evidence for arguments supporting alcohol marketing regulation, and suggests key elements that can be considered by countries in planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating effective regulation. It also provides legislative language that can assist governments in developing or modifying existing laws and implementing monitoring mechanisms. It complements a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) report from an exploratory meeting on alcohol regulation held in January 2015 and is firmly based in the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful use of Alcohol of the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the subsequent PAHO Regional Plan of Action. The first draft was produced by PAHO technical staff and presented at a meeting held in July 2016, with experts and representatives from selected Member States. The final document was extensively revised by PAHO staff after the meeting, following suggestions made by participants.

Download:  English | Spanish

PAHO Meeting on Alcohol Marketing Regulation. Final Report.

Alcohol Marketing Regulation Cover EN


Monitoring and regulating marketing of alcoholic beverages is one of the biggest challenge areas in alcohol public policy. Alcohol marketing regulation has been adopted by WHO as one of the three "best buys" for cost-effective policies to prevent and control the harmful use of alcohol as a risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Regulations must be coherent, strategic, and adaptable,and all related regulatory bodies and processes must be independent of the alcohol industry, given the commercial interests that often conflict with those of public health.

The report synthesizes the discussions and conclussions agreed on an exploratory international meeting convened by the Pan American Health Organization on 12-13 January 2015, with the participation of more than 30 experts on tobacco control, food and nonalcoholic beverages, trade agreements and health policy, as well as staff from NGOs, country offices and WHO headquartes.

Download the publicaton: English | Spanish

The Regulation of Alcohol Marketing: From Research to Public Health Policy

Supplement of Addiction, published on January 2017.

Using a broad public health perspective to describe the issues surrounding the marketing of alcoholic beverages, the papers in this Supplement provide a wealth of information to support renewed action by governments to control alcohol marketing with statutory measures, independent of the alcohol industry's self-regulatory programs, implemented and monitored by governments and/or civil society organizations with a primary interest in public health and the prevention of alcohol problems. To the extent that remedial action is needed urgently, the way forward is described clearly in the concluding paper to this Supplement.

Access to the Supplement in the following link.


Alcohol Marketing Regulation Cover EN

Publication details

Number of pages: 46

Publication date: 2016

Languages: English, Spanish

Download the publication:

English | Spanish


An exploratory meeting on regulation of marketing of alcohol products was held at the Pan American Health Organization in WDC, 12-13 January 2015. The objectives of the meeting were to summarize the research on the effects of alcohol marketing on young people; review existing statutory and self-regulatory codes on marketing and examine their effectiveness; and describe the experience of countries where alcohol marketing legislation has been recently enacted or proposed. As a result, participants agreed upon key messages that can assist countries in the development of legislative measures and support the work on alcohol marketing control in the Region and worldwide.