Saturday 10 December 2016

Breaches of alcohol sponsorship and ads to become a criminal offence under new law

Published 09/12/2015 | 07:19

The penalties will be outlined in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to be published by Health Minister Leo Varadkar
The penalties will be outlined in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to be published by Health Minister Leo Varadkar

Criminal sanctions will be imposed for the first time for breaches of alcohol advertising, marketing and sponsorship under proposed legislation to be published today.

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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 proposed new advertising curbs.

Pub scenes may be included in ads but the messages they convey of the ‘craic’ 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.

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