Minister's proposals will make breaches of alcohol advertising rules a criminal offence
Criminal sanctions will be imposed for the first time for breaches of alcohol advertising, marketing and sponsorship under proposed legislation to be published today.
The penalties will be outlined in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to be published by Health Minister Leo Varadkar after it was given the go-ahead by the Cabinet yesterday.
The wide-ranging Bill, which is aimed at curbing the country's ongoing excessive abuse of alcohol, will make it an offence to advertise or market alcohol in a way which glamorises drink.
Ads which suggest that alcohol can make someone better at sport or more sexually attractive will be banned.
It means a television ad in the style of the famous Harp commercial "Sally O'Brien and the way she might look at you" would probably not pass the test.
It will also ban on-pitch computer-generated advertising of alcohol, as previously reported in the Irish Independent.
The bill will ban all alcohol advertising near schools, playgrounds and public transport. It will also be outlawed in trains, bus stations or bus shelters.
It will restrict ads to only giving specific information about the product and they cannot make it appealing to children.
Warnings in relation to harmful effects of alcohol consumption in general and during pregnancy will be included in all ads.
A 9pm watershed for alcohol ads on television will be binding and this will be included in the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland code.
The Broadcasting Act 2009 will be amended to ensure that the Minister for Health is consulted on all health-related aspects of the code.
The traditional images of pub 'craic' used to promote alcohol are under threat from the proposed new advertising curbs.
Pub scenes may be included in ads but the messages they convey will be heavily scrutinised, particularly if young people who traditionally feature are seen to give the impression alcohol is enhancing their social skills.
Other measures include:
• The introduction of minimum pricing, which will mean a bottle of wine cannot be sold for less than around €8 and a can of beer for under €2.
• Warning labels on alcohol bottles and cans.
• Health warnings on the dangers of drinking while pregnant.
• The amount of pure alcohol in grams and the calorie count.
Bottles and cans will include a link to a new website by the HSE to provide public health information and advice on alcohol misuse.
The legislation will not interfere with drinks companies' sponsorship of games or pitch-side ads, but it is likely to have implications for international soccer or rugby tournaments held in Ireland.
It will be up to the next government to steer the legislation through the Oireachtas and face the drinks lobby.