Cheap booze will still be on sale for two more years
CHEAP alcohol will be on sale in shops for another two years, despite promises to outlaw it under new legislation.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday that even if the legislation, which is due to published this summer, was passed in early 2016, another year would be needed to draw up necessary regulations and give proper notice to retailers.
Mr Varadkar, who was appearing before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, was responding to concerns by members at the length of time it will take to bring in a series of measures to try to cut down on high levels of drinking.
Senator Gillian Van Turnhout said the legislation would have to include the modern forms of advertising and marketing by the drinks industry through apps and digital sites.
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin confirmed he would support the legislation but he said he wanted to see an increase in excise duties.
Minimum pricing is not a "panacea" and it will affect those on the lowest incomes the most.
Mr Varadkar said the reality was that people who were on low incomes were more likely to abuse alcohol. "There is a correlation between social class and alcohol abuse. In many ways, alcohol perhaps contributes to poverty and poverty contributes to alcohol," he said.
However, harmful drinking is clearly not just a problem among the least well off and those who can afford higher-priced alcohol are also a risk to themselves and others.
Around 20pc of the population is teetotal - so the official consumption figures of 11 litres of alcohol per person per year is an underestimate.
Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive (HSE) said yesterday its new alcohol policy would prevent any of its divisions or staff from taking part in any campaigns with links to drinks companies.
It will also be recommending that HSE-funded health organisations adopt this policy.
The HSE claimed there was an "inherent conflict" in the alcohol industry playing a role in providing public health advice. Public health policy should be provided by impartial and expert sources, it said
The 'Stop Out of Control' drinking campaign, funded by Diageo, has been at the centre of controversy since its launch earlier this year.
It has been defended by its chairman Fergus Finlay, who said Diageo's only role was to pay the €1m bill. It is a people's campaign and a five-year plan was due this summer, he added.