Irish Examiner – Alcohol price clampdown will not affect jobs, says Shortall

She indicated that as well as moving towards the introduction of minimum pricing on alcohol, the Government may increase taxes on alcohol in the budget in a bid to dampen alcohol consumption.

Ms Shortall, minister of state at the Department of Health with responsibility for primary care, said she was determined to address the “unhealthy relationship” Irish people had with drink.

“I am very concerned about the level of alcohol use in Ireland. We top the leagues when it comes to binge drinking, underage drinking and other dangerous behaviours based on alcohol.”

She was addressing a conference, entitled Supporting Children Living with Parental Substance Misuse, organised by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD), Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) and the HSE.

“We all need to reduce our consumption”, she said.

“Alcohol causes huge problems throughout families, throughout communities and in Irish society.”

“It places a huge burden on the health service and it hugely impacts on our competitiveness in terms of days lost in work, so we have no choice but to address the problem of alcohol misuse on Irish society.”

She said a national substance misuse strategy would be published by the end of the year.

She said pricing was a “key issue” and that alcohol had become “incredibly cheap”. She cited a recent example in a supermarket of two bottles of wine for €5.

She is consulting the Attorney General on whether it was legally possibly to introduce minimum pricing.

“It’s a very complex matter, but we’re hoping we will be able to move towards a situation where there will be a minimum price set per ounce of alcohol in any container of alcohol and that will be in addition to the taxes that will be required to be paid.”

She said research showed that the alcohol industry here would not be hard hit.

“I’m fairly satisfied that by clamping down on the cheap availability of alcohol through supermarkets it’s not actually going to have a significant impact on jobs.”

Fiona Ryan of AAI said previous research suggested that about one in 11 children, or more than 100,000, had parents with an alcohol or drugs problem.

“Shame and secrecy shroud the issue of substance misuse in families with children living lives of quiet desperation.” she said.

By Cormac O’Keeffe

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