Tuesday 18 December 2018

Singer and Senator Frances Black: 'Alcohol should not be sold in supermarkets next to nappies'

Frances Black. Photo: Tom Burke
Frances Black. Photo: Tom Burke
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Irish singer and Senator Frances Black gave up alcohol when she was 28 years old and entered into a rehabilitation programme for 15 months

Black, who is a trained addiction counsellor and founded the Rise Foundation to help families of alcoholics, was elected to the Seanad in 2016. Since then she has been working on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, and campaigning for cancer warnings to be displayed on alcohol products.

She’s also been lobbying for drinks not to be displayed next to everyday items in supermarkets like nappies.

 “Over 1,500 beds are taken up every single day with people with alcohol-related issues. It has cost the Exchequer €2.3bn,” Black told Irish Country Magazine.

“I went into politics to make sure that the bill got through in its entirety. We are not trying to make this a nanny state or to ban alcohol.”

"This is really about simple measures: minimum unit pricing, labels on the bottles showing the calorie content and the cancer risks, and to have product sparation in the shops so that alcohol isn't beside the nappies and bread as if it was a grocery item."

Black added: “We want people to know that alcohol is a psychoactive drug. Three people a day die from it. And alcohol plays a role in over 50pc of suicides. To argue against this bill is to trivialise that. How do you weigh that up?”

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill calls for the introduction of minimum unit pricing; structural segregation of alcohol from other products in supermarkets and retail outlets; detailed labelling requirements including health warnings, calorie and alcohol content; and restrictions on advertising and promotions.

Last February, health minister Simon Harris said that with this bill, the Government is for the first time endeavouring as an Oireachtas to address alcohol as a public health matter.

“Industry has lobbied and lobbied in a hope to delay or stall this process. I am absolutely determined that this Bill will be passed into law,” he said.

Harris accepted Opposition amendments requiring evidence-based cancer warnings on all advertising and labels. He also agreed that health warnings should take up one-third of the label on alcohol products.

The bill will also provide for a broadcasting watershed, which means no alcohol advertising can be aired before 9pm.

Black added: "The reality is I don't know if there is a family in this country who doesn't have somebody who drinks too much... it causes problems for everyone. We have a huge binge-drinking culture and that can impact not just the individual but the families and loved ones as well."

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