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Thursday 28 August 2014

Revealed: How the government plans to tackle alcohol abuse

Published 24/10/2013 | 12:30

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Alex White has approved an “extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse”
Alex White has approved an “extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse”

A STRICT advertising code and product labels with health warnings form part of a range of measures to tackle alcohol abuse.

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Alex White, a Minister of State at the Department of Health, announced today the Cabinet has approved an “extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse”.

The series of initiatives -- which include a minimum pricing regime per gram of alcohol -- is to be incorporated in a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

Mr White said the legislation targets high-strength alcohol being sold cheaply.

He claimed the average price of a pint or short in the pub will not be affected.

"Almost all drinks in pubs are already above any likely minimum price," he said.

When the legislation is passed, the regulations will limit drink ads on television and radio from 2016 to evening hours and, in cinemas, to films classified as over 18s.

In addition, outdoor advertising of alcohol will be restricted by a statutory code from 2018.

Print media ads will also be subjected to a statutory code, while limits are to be set on how alcohol is portrayed, with a particular emphasis on monitoring sexual content.

The minimum pricing measures will target high-strength products that are being sold cheaply in off-licences.

Environmental Health Officers are to be given increased enforcement powers relating to underage drinking.

But the Cabinet has shied away from imposing a ban on drinks companies sponsoring major sporting events.

It comes following strong representations from bodies like the IRFU which argued such a prohibition could hit rugby competitions like the Heineken Cup.

In a statement, the Government said it recognises the public health concerns associated with alcohol sponsorship of sport and also the potential impact of any regulatory measures on funding for sports organisations.

It has decided that the existing voluntary code that governs sports sponsorship will be placed on a statutory footing.

Minister White said: “This is a landmark day. It is the first time alcohol misuse has been addressed as a public health issue.

“The Government has recognised the severe consequences of the misuse of alcohol - including deaths, injuries and social and financial problems - and has determined to take action to address this problem.

“The package of measures to be implemented is the result of intensive discussions across Government departments, and will include provision for minimum unit pricing for alcohol products and the regulation of advertising and marketing of alcohol.”

Health Minister, Dr James Reilly, said: “Alcohol misuse in Ireland is a serious problem with two thousand of our hospital beds occupied each night by people with alcohol related illness or injury.

“This impacts on families and individuals at every level of society. It's deeply worrying too that young people are starting to drink earlier and to drink more. The average Irish person over the age of 15 is consuming the equivalent of a bottle of vodka a week.

“The Government is committed to tackling these problems and this week's decision marks a significant further step in that direction to create an environment where responsible consumption of alcohol is the norm.”

Cormac Murphy

Irish Independent

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