Why time could be called on getting a free drink with your blowdry in salons

Elisa Teyssier from Meath enjoying a gin and tonic while getting her hair done by Craig Fitzpatrick at Brown Sugar in South William Street, Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Eilish O'Regan

The growing trend of customers being offered a complimentary gin and tonic, glass of wine or beer in hairdressing salons and barbershops may be outlawed under proposed new laws, it emerged yesterday.

Health Minister Simon Harris will be able to call time on people having a tipple as they get a hair cut.

The Department of Health confirmed that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill - which the minister hopes will be passed at the end of the year - allows for regulations to be introduced to stop the supply of alcohol where it is offered for free.

The hair and beauty salon trend of offering a bubbling glass of prosecco or a "manicure and a merlot" is causing concern among groups campaigning to change our drinking culture.

In some upmarket salons there is a stylish permanent drinks table.

A gin and tonic may be offered along with the regular choices of tea and coffee, particularly if the customer will be in a salon for some time to get their hair dyed.

However, the practice was condemned at a joint meeting of the Irish Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (IACP) and Addiction Counsellors of Ireland.

The experts were told that some customers are being urged to go on to social media and tweet photos of themselves enjoying the tipple while getting a blow dry or highlights.

Eugene McHugh, the IACP's chairman, warned: "Front line counsellors and psychotherapists who encounter alcohol harm, need to give voice to their concerns."

He urged the Government not to delay the passage of the proposed legislation any longer.

Suzanne Costello, chief executive of Alcohol Ireland, told the gathering that tweeting or posting about getting a drink at the hairdressing salon was a form of "manipulation" and warned that there is no way of stopping it.

A spokesman for the organisation said: "We would say that it's not a healthy practice to offer alcohol free to customers of any service.

"It is precisely this level of normalisation that the proposed legislation seeks to deconstruct.

"In Ireland we have a cultural love affair with alcohol that ensures its omnipresence through our daily lives.

"Counteracting the ubiquity of alcohol in nearly every corner shop or petrol station is challenging enough.

"But handing it out in a barbers, or other such everyday commercial engagement, simply serves to reinforce a cultural norm that must be breached if, as a society, we are to commence a process of reducing our consumption of alcohol."

The legislation would also serve to outlaw promotions such as "Welfare Wednesday" where people who receive social welfare payments are targeted.

Campaigners also point to cut-price Leaving Cert deals on alcohol, and all-day Sunday prosecco brunches.

The most recent figures show that our per capita alcohol consumption has started rising again.

We drank 11.46 litres of alcohol per person last year, up from 10.93 litres in 2015.

The minister has promised that the legislation will remain intact and that the only change will be to the original plans for a so-called booze curtain to make alcohol less visible in retail outlets.

However, the drinks industry has claimed the law contains a series of punitive measures to make Ireland one of the most restrictive countries in the world for marketing alcohol products.