Questions about health related governance and health impacts of different policy measures are often raised in parliamentary debates, and health commissions of parliament assess the impact of most of the legislative acts from a health perspective. However, health considerations do not often explicitly and significantly influence parliamentary decisions and the parliament does not have implementation mechanisms by nature.
Government policy in Hungary is significantly influenced by EU membership. Government documents reflect the philosophy and considerations of the EU Public Health Action Plan and the principle of horizontality. Thus government policy documents in this field are, at least at the verbal level, inspired and influenced by the Health for All policy of the WHO and other WHO policy documents (e.g. nutrition policy, environment policy).
Some important legislative steps were taken in 1997 (Act on Health, incl. public health) and in 1999 and 2000 (Act on Protection of Non-smokers and amendment on Commercial Advertising regulating tobacco and alcohol ads) but these did not fit into a larger framework. There is a long-term strategy of public health in Hungary, adopted by the parliament in 2003 with 4 main strategic directions (1. Creating a health-promoting social environment; 2. Programmes of Healthy Lifestyle - reducing the risk factors; 3. Prevention of avoidable death, illness and handicap; 4. Improvement of the health care and public health system). One of the subprograms of the main strategic directions, the "Programs of Healthy Lifestyle, Reducing the risk factors" focuses on alcohol and drug prevention.
The programs of healthy lifestyle are aimed at changing the lifestyle of Hungarian citizens to be healthier, since there is a lot to do in this field. Hungarian drinking and smoking habits are direct causes and reasons of bad morbidity and mortality rates. The habits of alcohol consumption and drinking are culturally deeply embedded, so it is difficult to influence them. Besides, most of this behaviour occurs in the private sphere, hidden from the public, within families.
Later on the Ministry of Health asked experts to elaborate a background paper for future alcohol policy and so the first draft of a National Alcohol Policy has been prepared without any further action budget. Nevertheless, according to the new priorities of the National Public Health Program - one of them is mental health - there is a clear need to draft and adopt a new alcohol policy.
However, there are regulations, statutory and non-statutory as well, regulating the sale, promotion and marketing of alcoholic beverages. One important factor is the EU membership, which also had a great influence on Hungarian regulations. Due to the process of harmonisation of laws, there was a need to create new updated codes and regulations. Accordingly the implementation of the Council Recommendations in Hungary are reflected by national regulations, aimed at preventing alcoholic beverages being produced, advertised and marketed aiming at young people. As in many other countries it was necessary to introduce rules to protect the physical, mental and moral development of minors as well, though there are some uncovered areas, especially as far as sport and music events and sponsorship are concerned.