Dearer booze is no 'magic bullet', say experts
THE introduction of minimum pricing to end the sale of cheap booze will be no "magic bullet" to call time on alcohol abuse - but it could help reduce binge drinking among young people, experts believe.
Ivan Perry, Prof of Public Health in University College Cork, whose recent research showed seven-in-10 Irish students now drink to hazardous levels, with young women reporting similar patterns of alcohol consumption to men, said that when it comes to predicting the impact of these kind of measures " life is complicated."
"But I think that price has been identified as one measure which may make a difference, particularly in terms of young people in their late teens or early twenties.
"It is difficult to argue the cheap alcohol sold in supermarkets is not making a contribution to the way young people drink. The reality is that young people are drinking before they go out.
"They go down to the shop and buy a half a naggin of cheap vodka. We have supermarkets here within walking distance of the university."
He said children as young as 12 and 13 are also experimenting with alcohol.
Outlawing cheap drink would also send out a signal about our growing intolerance of alcohol abuse, Prof Perry pointed out. However, its impact may be diluted by the failure to ban sponsorship of sport by alcohol companies.
"It is the little boys watching the rugby or other sport from the age of seven or eight who are being socialised into a culture where alcohol is seen as part of the fabric of life. We will still be fighting that."
Alcohol counsellor Rolande Anderson said Health Minister Leo Varadkar should be applauded for at last publishing the Heads of the Bill proposing the move but he stressed it is now essential it happens.
"The heavy drinkers will drink less. But it will make no difference to those who are alcohol dependent. Having said that I did a straw poll among people I am treating this week and they said it would stop them making impulse purchases of drink. The segregation of drink in shops is important from that point of view," said the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP's) former alcohol project director.
Canada was the first country to introduce minimum pricing. It has led to quite small effects where implementation was erratic. But in Saskatchewan prices relate to alcohol strength and an 8.4pc fall in consumption was seen for every 10pc price increase. Mr Varadkar said the prices will have to be high enough to make an impact but must also be in line with those due in Northern Ireland.