advocating to reduce alcohol harm

Alcohol Action Ireland publishes 2020 Pre-Budget submission

Alcohol sales levy could transform prevention and treatment activities.

Main highlights demand:

  • No reductions on alcohol excise duties and fix current rates to cost-of-living index
  • Begin the process of reducing persistent subsidy to the alcohol industry
  • Establish social responsible fund from levies on off-trade alcohol sales to:
    • Establish an Annual ‘Youth Recreational Activities’ allowance.
    • Invest in primary care psychology services
  • Allow residential treatment health expenses qualify for tax relief at the higher 40% rate.
  • Commence Minimum Unit Pricing immediately.

Today (Tuesday 27th August) Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) publishes its submission to the Minister for Finance outlining its advice to Government in advance of Budget 2020. The submission comes at a time when Ireland’s pattern of alcohol consumption continues to be measured at 11 litres of alcohol being consumed per capita annually. This persistent high level of harmful drinking equates to 41 litres of gin/vodka, 116 bottles of wine or 445 pints of beer per person aged 15+. Ireland’s alcohol consumption is currently 80% beyond global average, while our 18-24 age cohort continue as Europe’s No.1 binge drinkers.

A central point of advice to the Minister for Finance is to maintain current excise duties on alcohol products and fix current rates to a cost-of-living index. Had a cost-of-living index rating applied to 2017 Alcohol Product Tax, the exchequer could have yielded an additional €24m.

Since the introduction of the euro (2002) excise duties on alcohol products have only changed three times. This anomaly has ensured that the price of alcohol has largely failed to keep pace with inflation and so, in real terms, is increasingly affordable.

As an example, over this 16 year period (2002-2019) Beer has only seen a 13.4% increase in excise duty while inflation for the same period is running at over 22%; an assessment of the market price over this period has increased at 43%.

This reality belies the commentary from the alcohol industry who demand government action to reduce the excise rates yet are themselves responsible for the cross-the-counter consumer cost increase with Beer, as an example, having been increased twice (over 6%) by the dominant market player in the last six years.

Alcohol Action Ireland again calls on government to dilute the unnecessary subsidy awarded to the alcohol industry who have enjoyed over €24m in foregone excise duties; €5.8m in 2018 to craft breweries alone.

Commenting on AAI’s renewed call for the establishment of a Social Responsibility Fund and the capacity for alcohol sales to generate of €76m, Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO, Alcohol Action Ireland said:

“Our proposals for establishing, and sustaining, a Social Responsibility fund demonstrate that there is ample means to source the necessary funding identified in the Slaintecare Report for a meaningful investment in primary care psychology services and the recruitment of additional psychologists at staff grade level and above, to meet the needs of both children and adults impacted by parental alcohol misuse. These funds have the capacity to transform chronically underfunded prevention and treatment activities.”

Speaking on the publication of its Pre-Budget statement, Alcohol Action’s Head of Communications, Eunan McKinney, said:

‘We recognise the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and the potential threats to our wider economy, makes the framing of Budget 2020 increasingly challenging. However, Government must not delay any further the implementation of the minimum unit pricing for alcohol products. 

This policy instrument, designed to shape better public health outcomes and enacted last October 2018, is increasingly by framed by the alcohol industry commentary as a matter of economic folly.  This cannot be allowed to become the only yardstick for implementation.

We continue to see an overvalued position of the alcohol industry, who contribute only 1% of our national exported goods, influencing further budget relief for matters that do not exist. The latest CSO 2018 data indicates the market value of alcohol sales in Ireland grew to €7.447 billion.”

 

The full submission can be read here