Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) have expressed disappointment on the recent media commentary from alcohol industry groups criticising the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, and more notably the intervention of IBEC, decrying its exclusion from formulating public alcohol policy.
ABFI (Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland) and its affiliate, the Irish Wine Association, have again criticised the public health measures within the Bill and specifically measures on health labelling. The introduction of a statutory basis for health labelling on all alcohol products, will ensure citizens and consumers alike, will, in the future, be informed, and warned, about what they consume. Most importantly, alcohol products will highlight the direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers.
AAI believe these measures are far from being either ‘devastating’ or ‘draconian’ and can be easily fulfilled by importers or producers, within the three-year transition period available, by packaging technology that easily enables mass individualisation and localisation of product presentation.
More widely, IBEC’s Chief Executive, Danny McCoy, speaking on RTE Radio One’s ‘Sean O’Rourke Show’ (Tuesday, 19 Dec), sought to again criticise government and the Department of Health for their steadfast commitment to the principles of the World Health Organisation, which categorically state “the alcohol industry has no role in the formulation of alcohol policies, which must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests” (WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan, 2013).
By excluding an intervention that simply seeks to dilute or delay innovative public health measures is not ‘zealot behaviour’ or ‘arbitrary distinction’ but merely recognises that, on this issue, the voice of business cannot hold equal weight. To accept the IBEC position is to believe business should have an architectural role in constructing public health policy.
AAI believe the bottom line remains the same, there is an irreconcilable conflict between those who wish to protect public health from alcohol harms and those who seek to guard pecuniary interests selling alcohol.
As matters stand, were Ireland’s drinking patterns to reflect a low-risk approach to alcohol consumption, we would be drinking 40% less than we do today. Instead, IBEC and its surrogates ask that we contribute a ‘lifetime of income from responsible drinking’ to our seemingly ‘pivotal’ alcohol industry, that contributes approximately 1% towards our total national goods exported.
Today, three people will die because of alcohol, and three more tomorrow. And every other tomorrow until we finally decide to be decisive and implement preventative policies as consumption continues to rise.
The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has finally evolved from many years of debate, and procrastination! Cultivating that doubt has been an alcohol industry who at every turn have sought to confuse and delay, fabricating and obfuscate. Since 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization has classified alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen, yet the alcohol industry, again as recently as yesterday, continue to express doubt, questioning the irrefutable evidence!
At a time when detractors of scientifically researched facts possess their own ‘alternative’ facts, is the honourable community of Irish business to be so at odds with public good? Or will they finally recognise that less alcohol harm must mean less revenues?
Business, and all the benefits that flows from its enterprise, make a significant contribution to a progressive society but it is simply not the same, and certainly different to, advancing the health and wellbeing of our nation.