Tuesday 21 August 2018

Drink blitz sees bottle of wine rise to €9 minimum

Clampdown to double the cost of a can of beer

Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A bottle of wine would cost a minimum of €8.80 and a can of beer at least €2.20 under proposals aimed at outlawing cheap alcohol sales.

The move is part of Health Minister Leo Varadkar's vow to end the sale of cheap drink, which he believes is fuelling the nation's drink problem.

Cigarette packet-style health warnings and calorie counts on alcohol labels would also be made compulsory under new legislation.

Mr Varadkar got Cabinet approval yesterday for the Heads of the proposed Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, which will set a minimum price for drink sales.

The legislation, due this summer, will mean new restrictions on advertising, marketing and sponsorship.

Environmental health officers will be given strong powers of enforcement.

But the law stops short of banning drinks sponsorship of sporting events.

The Irish Independent understands the Department of Health is examining introducing a minimum price of between 9c and 11c per gram of alcohol. That means the minimum cost of an unit of alcohol - about half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine - will be set between 90c and €1.10.

If the higher price is imposed, it means a bottle of wine could not be legally sold for less than €8.80 and a can of beer for €2.20.

If the Government opts for the lower price option, a bottle of wine will cost at least €7.20 and a can of beer €1.80.

Mr Varadkar said: "The days of 15 cans or bottles of beer being sold for €15 is of the past.

"Most Irish adults drink too much and many drink dangerously."

"This has an enormous impact on our society and economy through greater illness and higher health costs, public order and violent offences, road traffic collisions, injuries and absence from work.

"It is also associated with many suicides and instances of sexual violence, domestic violence and child harm. The time for debate is over, we have had four years of it now. It is over and we need to put those measures into place."

The legislation due later this year will allow the sponsorship of sports events by drinks companies to continue, but it provides for a review in three years. There will be legal regulation of this sponsorship for the first time.

It is planned to introduce restrictions on the advertising and marketing of alcohol from 2016 - including a broadcast watershed on TV and radio, which is expected to be 9pm.

The plan will also impose further restrictions on cinema and outdoor advertising. It will be illegal to market alcohol in a manner appealing to children.

The Department is following the University of Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model for minimum pricing.

The appropriate price will be chosen taking into account their estimates, in consultation with the Department of Finance.

Irish people still drink an annual 11.6 litres of pure alcohol per capita, 20pc lower than at the turn of the last decade.

The aim is to bring down Ireland's consumption of alcohol to the OECD average of 9.1 litres in five years' time.

Commenting on alcohol sponsorship, Mr Varadkar said a ban has not been entirely abandoned.

"The perfect is the enemy of the very good. We have had four years of discussions, I don't know how many working groups and committees. It is time to get on with it."

He also said he does not expect minimum pricing to result in a tax bonanza.


"We don't expect a major increase in excise for this because while very cheap alcohol will be eliminated, we expect to see a reduction in consumption.

"It is not anticipated that there will be any significant benefit to the Exchequer."

Alcohol Action Ireland welcomed the proposed law, saying it signalled an intent to regulate alcohol as a public health matter for the first time.

Prof Frank Murray, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said the introduction of minimum unit pricing and other restrictions have proven benefits.

Irish Independent

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