THE price of cheap bottles of vodka and low-cost cans of cider and lager is going to be jacked up under a government clampdown on alcohol.
Supermarkets and small shops will also be required by law to confine their off-licence to one part of the store.
And alcohol will carry specific health warnings – which won't be as graphic as cigarette packets – and calorie levels.
The Cabinet yesterday signed off on its long-awaited alcohol strategy. A timeline on when the new laws will come into force will be announced tomorrow.
Minimum pricing is being brought in by the Government on what is described as cheap alcohol, relative to its strength.
The change will target so-called '€5 naggins' of vodka and certain brands of strong lager and cider by bringing in a minimum price per unit of alcohol.
The Coalition is planning to coordinate efforts on pricing with the authorities in Northern Ireland.
Shops will have to separate alcohol from other products on sale to a greater degree. And there's a threat to force them to segregate their alcohol entirely behind a wall, if the law is not adhered to.
The rules will be enforced via inspections by Environment Health Officers.
Meanwhile, the widening gap in alcohol prices is set to drive shoppers north of the Border to stock up this Christmas, retailers have claimed.
Prices were already up to twice as expensive in stores in the South, even before Budget day excise hikes widened the gap further, the National Off-Licence Association (NOFFLA) said.
And the clampdown on cheap alcohol could widen the gap even further.
The Budget added €1.62 in excise to the price of a 75cl bottle of spirits, while a bottle of wine is up 50c, and a 500ml can of beer is up seven cent, the Oireachtas Dail Jobs and Enterprise Committee heard yesterday.
The increase in prices comes even though a survey carried out just before last week's Budget showed a price gap of up to 97pc in the cost of alcohol north and south of the Border.
"Consumers will undoubtedly begin shopping in Northern Ireland in the Christmas period, especially given the substantial savings that can be made," said Evelyn Jones, an off-licence owner and chairperson of NOFFLA.
For example, a 12-pack of Heineken cost €20.99 in a southern supermarket, nearly twice as much as the €10.67 (£9) price tag in the North.
A litre of Smirnoff meanwhile cost €29.79 down south compared with €20.15 (£17) in the North, a bottle of Bacardi was 56pc dearer and a bottle of Jameson was €6.21 dearer in the South.
Overall alcohol prices were already 34pc cheaper in Northern Ireland for a basket of 10 items – €223 compared to €166 – even before last week's excise hikes hit, the survey by the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland found.
NOFFLA called on Finance Minister Michael Noonan to reverse the excise increases, warning that more businesses would close with job losses.