We drink 'bottle of vodka a week'
Published 08/02/2012 | 05:00
THE average Irish adult is drinking the equivalent of a bottle of vodka a week -- or downing 482 pints of lager a year.
There are 1.5 million people drinking to excess and increasing their risk of developing cancer or cardiovascular disease, a Department of Health-led report -- called the National Substance Misuse Strategy -- warned yesterday.
Alcohol abuse also costs 88 lives a month and increases the chances of developing 60 medical conditions. The related illness cost is €1.2bn a year.
But a question mark hung over the report's future yesterday after Health Minister James Reilly did not attend its launch and Junior Minister Roisin Shortall "accepted it" before quickly leaving the press conference.
The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland also dismissed it as a "missed opportunity", condemning its proposal to put a levy worth €2bn on the drinks industry.
The report was drawn up by the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group, made up of health experts, gardai, community activists and representatives of the drinks industry. But it bore similarities to previous reports on the issue of alcohol abuse, which had limited results.
One of its central recommendations, to phase out drinks sponsorship of sports events, was included in a task force report on alcohol published a decade ago.
Ms Shortall said she hoped yesterday's report would lead to a public debate on the need for changes. She said she expected to have an "action plan" for its implementation in the next couple of months.
However, she was not present for questions on whether cabinet colleagues agreed with proposals that could negatively impact sports and the tourism industry.
The price of cheap alcohol should also be hiked and a watershed applied to drinks advertising to try to stop teenagers binge drinking, the expert group found.
But Denis Bradley, of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, who was a member of the group, said: "It is a hot political potato. A lot of the recommendations were made before, and governments walked away from them."
Outlining the findings of the report, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who chaired the group, said alcohol abuse was taking a terrible toll.
It is a contributory factor in half of all suicides and responsible for a quarter of injuries presented to A&E departments. It is responsible for one in four deaths in young men and is a factor in one in 12 cancer deaths.
"The price of alcohol and its affordability is key," he said, and pointed out that the majority of the group is in favour of minimum pricing.
It also wants a social responsibility levy imposed on the major drinks firms which would see a slice of their advertising budget go towards remedying some of the ill effects of alcohol.
Dr Holohan aims to cut drinking from 11.9 litres of pure alcohol per adult in 2010 -- the equivalent of 482 pints of lager or 125 bottles of wine -- to 9.2 litres.
Alcohol consumption in Ireland is at the higher level of the scale, according to data from the OECD.
By comparison, consumption in the UK stands at 10.2 litres per year, 12.3 litres in France and 9.7 litres in Germany, according to the most recent data compiled between 2008 and 2010.
The Department of Health is recommending new low risk weekly consumption guidelines of no more than 11 standard drinks for women and 17 standard drinks for men.
One unit is equal to a half pint of beer, a small glass of wine or a small measure of spirits.
Comment: P24 and World News