Alcohol Action Ireland rejects ABFI’s assessment of the EU Commission’s Comments on the Public Health Alcohol Bill.

In response to the recent comments from the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI: 7th May), Alcohol Action Ireland have refuted the assertion that the EU Commission has stated that Ireland’s proposed measures, as outlined in the Public Health Alcohol Bill, ‘go beyond what is required to effectively tackle alcohol misuse’.

In its ‘Comments’ to the Government of Ireland, the EU Commission makes clear its concerns are primarily regarding the possible impact on the export of alcoholic beverages to Ireland, but reasserts Ireland’s Member State capacity to justify actions, such as those proposed within the Bill, on grounds of protecting public health.

The EU Commission does not, as ABFI suggest, ‘heavily’ criticise the Public Health objectives of the Bill but merely highlights some ‘concerns’, many of which have been raised in previous incidence of Member State action, and seeks clarity on the technical application of regulations such as those outlined for labelling, advertising and broadcasting.

Commenting on the specific concerns raised, Eunan McKinney, Alcohol Action Ireland said:

“Like all good working partnerships, we have no doubt that the Government’s intentions to protect public health in Ireland can, and will, be explained to the Commission, and any remaining concerns alleviated through careful dialogue and explanation.

The last thing the Public Health Alcohol Bill needs right now after six years of debate is further amendment. The Bill, as developed, is a modest and reasonable legislative framework that enables society to seriously tackle our ongoing difficulty with alcohol, and to maintain a fresh momentum, that in time, can reduce our alcohol consumption levels to within a low-risk levels.

It is perfectly clear to us that this further intervention by the alcohol industry is merely to initiate further delay in the hope that the Bill can yet again become embroiled, and possibly lost, in a new wave of electoral politics. This would be deeply regrettable, given the near 6,000 lives that have been lost to alcohol related harms since this painstaking effort began.

While these Comments and the Detailed Opinion from Member States’ Portugal and Italy may add some further delay to the Oireachtas’ enactment of the Bill, we remain confident that the primacy of a Member State to enact necessary Public Health measures, as affirmed by the recent UK Supreme court decision to allow Minimum Unit Price in Scotland, will be recognised by the Commission.”

Ireland’s endeavour to enact the Public Health Alcohol Bill is being undertaken on the evidence of a growing public health crisis where underlying consumption data continue to demonstrate an upward trend, 900 people annually are diagnosed with alcohol related cancers and three deaths a day are attributable to alcohol.

 Editors Note:

The full Comments from the Commission can viewed here