Working to reduce alcohol harm

Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland expresses disappointment and frustration at the lack of progress of the Public Health Alcohol Bill

Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland today expressed its disappointment and frustration at the lack of progress of the Public Health Alcohol Bill, which they believe has been hindered by the lobbyists of the alcohol industry.  The Alliance calls for the urgent enactment of the Bill.

The Alliance, which represents 52 of Ireland’s leading voices in medicine and health advocacy urged the immediate enactment of the Bill, that has now languished before the House of the Oireachtas for over 650 days.

Speaking as Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, Prof. Frank Murray said:

“There is an unsustainable crisis in Ireland as a result of how much alcohol we consume and the way in which we drink. There is widespread concern about this and a huge public desire to take effective action to reduce alcohol harm. For too long, the alcohol industry has had too much influence on policy. The alcohol industry should have no role in national alcohol policy, which must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests, as stated by the director of the World Health Organization.

 

Commenting on the role of government in advancing the Bill, Prof. Murray said:

“An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health, Simon Harris have taken a courageous stand as individual advocates for the measures within the Bill, and the need to progress its enactment; without their commitment, this historic piece of public health legislation would have slipped off the agenda. I believe other political leaders in Ireland also support the effective action in the Bill”

Reflecting on the role of the wider political community and its susceptibility to industry lobbying, Prof. Murray emphasized that delays in enacting the Bill have had lethal consequences’

“Over the duration of this delay to enactment, a further 2,000 lives have been lost to alcohol related illnesses, over 100,000 children have commenced drinking alcohol. Alcohol continues to be a factor in approximately half of all suicides in Ireland.

‘Alcohol consumption is again increasing and there is no chance that Ireland will reach the target of 9.1 liters per capita per year by 2020, a stated Government target. The cost to our health services continues to spiral beyond €1.5 billion annually. Meanwhile, Doctors and Nurses and other healthcare workers in our Emergency Departments, and throughout the health services, grapple with the devastation caused to people’s lives through alcohol.”

The conference was chaired by Prof. Frank Murray, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance and the immediate past president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and heard from:

  • Dr Bobby Smyth, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist,
  • Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager, Irish Heart Foundation,
  • Donal Buggy, Head of Advocacy Irish Cancer Society,
  • Tanya Ward, Chief Executive Children’s Rights Alliance,
  • Marie Ryan, Environmental Health Association of Ireland
  • Dr. Stephanie O’Keeffe, National Director of Health & Wellbeing, HSE

In addition, Dr Kevin Cunningham, Ireland Thinks, gave a summary presentation, of the findings of a poll on attitudes to alcohol consumption.

The opinion poll was commissioned by Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland, and conducted in the summer 2017. The poll shows overwhelming public support for Government adopting the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, and all its provisions:

  • 92% agree alcohol consumption is too high
  • 78% are concerned about children and their exposure to alcohol
  • 74% support Government intervention to reduce alcohol consumption and to protect people from alcohol-related harm
  • 82% support Government action to curb alcohol marketing that appeals to young people

 

The Alcohol Health Alliance is represented by a number of its 52 members, including many of the country’s leading spokespeople from a range of medical professions and clinical expertise, as well as specifically related Non-Governmental Agencies, who together have been advocating for this historic legislation to be enacted.

The Alcohol Health Alliance was established by Alcohol Action Ireland and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI), and brings together a wide range of public health campaigners whose mission is to reduce the harm caused by alcohol In Ireland.