The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland ’s Policy Group on Alcohol and Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, are calling for the introduction of minimum pricing on alcohol in their Pre-Budget Submissions.
In a joint statement, the organisations said: “There is compelling evidence that pricing is one of the most effective ways to tackle alcohol-related harm. Minimum pricing will set a floor price beneath which alcohol cannot be sold. These cheap alcoholic drinks are consumed by the heaviest drinkers, who are most at risk of alcohol-related illness and death. Young people, who generally have the least disposable income, also tend to purchase the cheapest alcohol products.
“Minimum pricing will not affect the price of a pint, or any alcohol products sold in pubs or restaurants. It will only affect the very cheapest alcohol products sold in the off-trade, particularly supermarkets. The price of the majority of alcohol products sold in the off-trade will be unaffected.
“Both organisations also believe that minimum pricing makes financial sense. Ireland currently spends €3.7 billion each year on dealing with the costs of alcohol-related harm. Setting the minimum unit price at an appropriate level can also save the Exchequer up to €21 million annually as supermarkets would no longer be able to claim VAT refunds on alcohol sold below cost.”
The RCPI’s Alcohol Policy Group also suggests that the Government increase excise duties in line with inflation to reduce affordability of alcohol and to increase Exchequer revenue. As a proportion of the sale price of beer, tax is less than it was 10 years ago.
Professor Frank Murray, Chair of the RCPI’s Alcohol Policy Group, said; “There is a crisis with problem alcohol consumption in Ireland. Increasing death rates from liver cirrhosis and increasing rates of hospital admission in young women tell a story of a bitterly unhappy relationship between the Irish and cheap alcohol. Urgent effective and targeted action is required to reduce the availability of cheap alcohol. We urge the Government to show leadership in introducing minimum pricing for alcohol and increasing excise duty. These public health measures will reduce the societal problems associated with cheap alcohol use.”
Alcohol Action Ireland note that minimum pricing has the backing of a coalition of more than 30 charities, NGOs and representative organisations, including Barnardos, Focus Ireland, the College of Psychiatry of Ireland, Irish Cancer Society, Irish Heart Foundation, Irish Medical Organisation, ISPCC, National Youth Council of Ireland, Samaritans Ireland, St Vincent de Paul, Rape Crisis Network of Ireland and Women’s Aid.
Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, said: “Each of these organisations supports minimum pricing because, in their different ways, they all have to deal with the fall-out from our harmful relationship with alcohol on a daily basis – a relationship that is made all the more difficult by the widespread availability of very cheap alcohol in this country. It’s clear that if the price of the very cheap, strong alcohol products goes up, alcohol-related harm goes down. Minimum pricing will not only reduce the financial costs of alcohol-related harm in Ireland, but the many human costs too. Simply put, it will save money and save lives, as well as improving the health and wellbeing of Irish society as a whole.
Launch images released to picture desk by Photocall Ireland or available on request.
To see Alcohol Action Ireland’s Pre-Budget Submission 2014 click here
To see the RCPI Alcohol Policy Group’s Pre-Budget Submission click here
To see the full membership of the minimum pricing coalition click here