Working to reduce alcohol harm

Response to Irish Media Industry report

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill contains a range of measures designed to work cohesively to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland so lessening alcohol related harms. Implemented together, they will provide a reasonable, pragmatic means to achieving the ambition of this progressive public health initiative.

The media industry, as the report outlines, warns that new advertising restrictions proposed in the Bill will ‘cost the Irish media sector an estimated €20m a year’. This is again typical of the divisive language that has calculatingly sown the seed of doubt in legislator’s minds and caused over 500 days of an inexcusable delay to the Bill’s passage.

The impact on total advertising revenues will be nominal. Recent advertising expenditure data from Nielsen, 2016, indicates that total Drink expenditure was €47m (exclusive of alcohol promotion by multiples).

Are we to really believe the hysteria that revenues, in an industry worth just over €1 billion, will be ‘decimated’ in the face of targeted regulation?

Only a minute amount of this total spend could be affected by the provisions of the Bill, as drinks companies will be allowed to continue to advertise their brands, including an image of the product, an image or reference to its place of origin, its method of production, its price, its brand marque, its name, its logo, a description of its flavour, etc., While this is not an exhaustive list, it would seem a reasonable range of possibilities for even the most creatively challenged.

The Bill does not propose to prohibit advertising of alcohol products. It contains a modest set of regulations principally on the content of advertisements that will limit the appeal of alcohol advertising, particularly to children. This will minimise its impact so that alcohol products can no longer align with performance, success, social inclusion or a variety of other positive outcomes.

The Bill, were it to be passed, will prohibit alcohol advertising in certain places and times, placing a limited ‘ads-free zone’ perimeter – 200 metres – around schools and early years services. Alcohol products would also no longer be advertised on public service vehicles.

The effect on people’s exposure, particularly children, to the ubiquity of alcohol positioning will be significant. Evidence based research has consistently demonstrated that alcohol marketing including advertising increases the likelihood that children will start to drink alcohol, and with increased drinking amongst baseline drinkers.

These regulations are part of a wider set of measures designed to work together to address Ireland’s unabated misuse of alcohol, which in time will reduce our high-risk level of consumption and lessen the alcohol related harms that bring enormous social and economic cost to our society.

WHO data conclusively demonstrates that alcohol consumption in France has fallen by 26% since ‘Loi Evin’ measures were introduced in 1991. Ireland’s consumption of alcohol in 2016 rose by 4.8% to 11.46lts, and has increased three fold over two generations.