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Raise taxes on drinking to fund care bill says HSE

The Government should increase taxes on drink to pay the €3.7bn costs to the State of alcohol abuse, says a new HSE report.

The Health Authority document points out that alcohol abuse takes up about 8pc of the total health budget at €1.2bn and also costs a further €1.19bn in crime-related costs.

"There is considerable evidence that increasing the price of alcohol reduces alcohol-related harms and the Government should seriously consider raising the rate of excise duty on alcohol as a means of reducing harms," it adds.

The study was carried out for the HSE by Sean Byrne, a lecturer in economics at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

It comes as provisional figures show that drink consumption has increased last year for the first time since 2007 -- up from 11.3 litres per adult in 2009 to 11.9 litres in 2010.

Mr Byrne has calculated that the cost to the State of drink abuse has risen from €2.6bn eight years ago to the current €3.7bn.

This represents 1.9pc of gross domestic product compared to an EU average of 1.3pc.

Some €319m of the total drink-crime related cost is directly incurred by the criminal justice system and so eats up 13pc of the justice budget.

Alcohol Action Ireland has welcomed the report and says the Government should introduce minimum pricing for alcohol or increase excise duty.

But the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, which represents manufacturers and suppliers, said there was "no evidence" to suggest that increasing the excise duty was an effective way of dealing with alcohol misuse.

Such a move would penalise the average responsible drinker, it adds.

The HSE report says that, while the nominal price of drink has increased significantly in the past 15 years, the real price has fallen by 50pc since the mid-1990s.

While Ireland has relatively high nominal excise duties on alcohol, the real value of this has fallen steeply, it claims.