Saturday 17 August 2019

Varadkar to ban alcohol ads on sporting pitches to 'de-glamourise' drink

Alcohol ads on the pitch before a game between Ireland and the All Blacks during a recent Autumn International series
Alcohol ads on the pitch before a game between Ireland and the All Blacks during a recent Autumn International series
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

On-pitch advertising, which generates valuable income for rugby and soccer, is to be banned, the Irish Independent has learned.

The ads, which are computer-generated or spray-painted on the pitch and are unmissable by television viewers, will be outlawed in proposed new legislation.

The curbs are part of a series of measures to be included in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in an attempt to ‘de-glamourise’ drinking. The legislation will be brought to Cabinet shortly by Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

The minister, who is set to  face opposition  from the drinks’ lobby, as well as sporting organisations, is expected to argue the measures are needed if the nation is to reduce the harm of alcohol misuse. It will also include a plan to put new controls on advertising of alcohol on social media.

The aim is to rein in the advertising in order not to convey the image of drinking as “cool”.

Other measures include:

  • A 9pm watershed for television and radio advertising of alcohol.
  • The introduction of minimum pricing, which will mean a bottle of wine cannot be sold for less than around €8 and a can of beer for under €2.
  • Warning labels on alcohol bottles and cans.
  • Health warnings on the dangers of drinking while pregnant.
  • The amount of pure alcohol in grams and the calorie count.
  • Labels will warn that alcohol abuse can cause cancer, liver disease and hepatitis.
  • The bottles and cans will include a link to a new website by the HSE to provide public health information and advice on alcohol misuse.

Although the legislation will not interfere with drinks companies’ sponsorship of games or pitch-side ads, the proposals are likely to cause conflict with Mr Varadkar’s old Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It will put regulation of sports sponsorship on a legal footing for the first time.

Alcohol advertising and marketing overall are around €70m a year and sports get a lucrative slice of this spend.

The proposed legislation will include a range of new powers for health inspectors to enforce the separation of alcohol in stores.

The health inspectors will be given powers to police minimum pricing, health labelling, marketing and advertising.

It will be illegal to either market or advertise alcohol in a way that is appealing to children.

Pubs, clubs and restaurants will also be obliged to provide information to customers on alcohol products sold on draught or in measures such as pints, glasses of wine or measures of spirits.

Health warnings will also have to be included in any promotional material.

It comes against a background of stark statistics showing 88 people die in Ireland every month due to alcohol.

There are twice as many deaths from alcohol as due to all other drugs.

Irish Independent

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