An attempt to tackle alcohol abuse will be made next month after Health Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed the draft of a minimum pricing for alcohol bill is to be published.
It comes after a report in America this week outlined that under-age drinkers are more likely to choose alcohol brands that sponsor sports, music and entertainment events.
Mr Varadkar said minimum pricing would be aimed at preventing alcohol misuse. It would also help to reduce the risk of alcohol getting into the hands of vulnerable people such as teenagers.
“There is strong and clear scientific evidence that an increase in alcohol prices reduces hazardous drinking and serious alcohol-related problems,” he said.
“Ireland has the second-highest rate of binge-drinking in the world, and this pattern of drinking causes significant harm to individuals, their families and society. It should have only a very marginal effect on moderate drinkers.”
Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor welcomed the minister’s announcement, saying alcohol posed serious problems.
“Three people die every day due to alcohol and 2,000 hospital beds are occupied every night by people with alcohol-related illnesses,” she said.
Ms Mitchell O’Connor added that the sale of cheap alcohol was having a negative impact on small businesses and fuelling domestic violence.
“Local retailers and publicans are struggling to compete with supermarkets, below-cost selling and massive advertising expenditure. Instead, customers are loading up on cheap alcohol in large supermarkets,” she said.
“According to Women’s Aid, alcohol often is a trigger and can be used as an excuse by the abuser for domestic violence.”
However, Alcohol Action Ireland said further work would be needed to protect the most vulnerable people from the effects of alcohol abuse.
Spokesperson Conor Cullen said that as well as pricing, the Government needs to tackle the marketing and the availability of alcohol.
“Alcohol marketing and advertising reinforce the dangerous message that it is normal and fun to get drunk, a message that is at the root of so much harmful drinking,” he said.
“This situation is particularly worrying when you consider the explosion in the number of outlets selling alcohol at very cheap prices in the off-trade in recent years, particularly supermarkets.”