Monday 19 February 2018

Plans to end cheap alcohol sales through minimum price and taxes

Lyndsey Telford

A GOVERNMENT minister has revealed plans to end the sale of cheap drink by imposing a minimum price on top of taxes and excise duties.

Roisin Shortall, junior minister in the Department of Health, claimed the bottom line was needed amid calls to tackle alcohol misuse.

"We're hoping that we would be able to move towards a situation where there would be a minimum price set per ounce of alcohol and that would be in addition to the taxes that would have to be paid," she said.

"Recently one of the supermarkets was selling two bottles of wine for a fiver. Now that's less than the actual excise duties on bottles of wine and I'd like to move towards a certain situation where that would not be allowed under the law."

Proposals for a below-cost selling ban on alcohol follow similar initiatives announced earlier this week by a minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Meas, the Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society lobby group, has warned that the pricing of alcohol needs to be addressed.

Ms Shortall said using alcohol as a so-called loss leader - sold cheaply to attract customers - in supermarkets was having a negative impact. The legal ramifications for the below-cost ban are being examined.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), part of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, warned of the potential for court challenges if the Government attempts to introduce minimum prices.

A spokesman said: "This is one of the issues that has been under consideration at the National Substance Misuse Strategy Group on which ABFI has been playing a full and constructive role on behalf of the Irish drinks industry since January 2010.

"While we do not wish to pre-empt any of the recommendations contained in the final report, we do note the legal difficulties associated with the introduction of minimum pricing to which the minister refers.

"However, we would point out that in the context of rapidly declining average alcohol consumption, the drinks industry continues to support evidence-based proposals to address alcohol misuse."

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