Friday 24 January 2020

Outlawing of cheap drink is a 'step closer'

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The Department of Health's plans to outlaw cheap alcohol by introducing minimum pricing are a step closer after a landmark ruling in Scotland.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh rejected an appeal by the Scottish Whisky Association which claimed minimum pricing would be ineffective and penalise responsible drinkers.

The ruling will have implications here for the future of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, which goes to Seanad Committee stage next Wednesday.

Alcohol Action Ireland said it was a "positive ruling for public health in Ireland" and insisted the widespread availability of discounted alcohol in supermarkets was one of the key issues driving its misuse.

It is responsible for three deaths every day in Ireland, as well as a wide range of other harms.

A recent price survey found that by buying the cheapest alcohol available in supermarkets, a man can reach his low-risk weekly limit of 17 standard drinks for just €7.65 and a woman can reach her low-risk weekly limit of 11 standard drinks for just €4.95.

However, Ross MacMathuna, of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, asked the Government to be "mindful of the Border with Northern Ireland" when considering whether to proceed with the introduction of minimum unit pricing.

"With the decline in the value of Sterling post the Brexit vote, cross-border shopping is on the increase and raising the price of alcohol in the Republic on a unilateral basis would further exacerbate this while doing little to address harm," he said.

"As an alternative, a ban on below-cost selling, which would ensure alcohol is not sold as a loss leader, is an appropriate public health response to the sale of cheap alcohol."

We already pay the highest price and among the highest taxes in the EU for alcohol.

Irish Independent

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