TDs want graphic warning labels on alcohol products
A new labelling system for alcohol products featuring health warnings similar to those found on tobacco products has been recommended in a new report.
The report by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children has called for "clear health warnings to be included on alcohol products, indicating that alcohol causes disease".
It means that the packaging on bottles of wine or cans of beer may now feature calorie counts, graphic warnings and alcohol content per gram.
The committee, which is chaired by Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, also supported calls for minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol products, which it says will be an "effective means to reduce and disrupt harmful alcohol consumption patterns".
MUP is understood to be between €0.60 and €1.10, as previously revealed by the Irish Independent.
At the top level, it would put the minimum price on an average 500ml can of beer at about €2, a bottle of wine at more than €8 and a 70cl bottle of spirits at nearly €24.
According to the report, MUP is expected to lead to both higher VAT returns for the Exchequer and increased profits for drinks companies.
However, drink producers may also be forced to pay a "social responsibility levy" as part of the MUP plans. It is understood the charge will "capture" some of the extra profits accumulated by producers.
"Any additional revenue generated for the Exchequer could be ring-fenced to fund health sector social marketing initiatives, and addiction treatment and rehabilitation services," the report said.
The National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) has said an outright ban is needed on below-invoice-cost selling of alcohol if the issue is to be fully addressed.
Government affairs director with NOffLA Evelyn Jones welcomed the report but was concerned at the recommendation for a new levy.
"NOffLA is very concerned to see the committee's call for a levy on the drinks sector 'to capture some of the profit which may arise from introducing MUP'. This is a misconception concerning MUP which does not increase profits for retailers."
NOffLA supported the Committee's call for a contingency plan in the event that MUP is found to be illegal by the European Court of Justice. The issue of MUP was referred to the court by Scotland last year.
"NOffLA has long called for a ban on below-invoice-cost selling. Such a ban can and should be enacted immediately, and will work hand in hand with MUP should it be found legal, and most importantly, will tackle the deep discounting of premium wines and spirits - something MUP fails to do," said Ms Jones.