Alcohol report – People want State to do much more

  • Post category:News

Thursday, July 12, 2012 in the Irish Examiner

More than four out of five people in this country think that Irish people drink too much alcohol, according to a survey published yesterday by the Health Research Board.

Of course, this may tell us more about people’s preconceptions than their actual knowledge, because the same survey indicates that more than 90% of people do not know the recommended weekly maximum that a person can safely consume.

This highlights the need for information. It is frightening that so many people are unaware that the recommended weekly maximum is 14 standard drinks for women and 21 for men.

The same survey found that one in six people in Ireland did not drink alcohol in the past 12 months. This figure is not broken down into those who chose not to drink by choice, and those who are compelled to abstain out of necessity.

It is sometimes suggested that Ireland is the only country in the world where people think you have a drink problem if you say you don’t drink. Drink-related problems are no joking matter, as became so apparent with the horrific antisocial behaviour at the concert in Dublin’s Phoenix Park over the weekend.

Almost three-quarters of Irish people believe society tolerates too much alcohol consumption. An overwhelming majority of 78% believe the Government has a responsibility for introducing health measures to address excessive consumption, but 58% do not think the Government has been doing enough in that regard.

People believed that various measures should be adopted, such as restricting certain types of alcohol advertising, introducing minimum pricing, and insisting that drink containers provide four categories of information. They should list the alcohol content, health-related dangers, the ingredients, and the number of calories.

Nine out of 10 people do not agree it is safe to drive after two drinks, and they believe that further measures should be implemented in relation to alcohol and driving, such a mandatory testing of the alcohol level of any driver involved in a traffic accident, and that those convicted of more than one drink-driving offence should have an “alcohol lock” fitted to their car.

A clear majority of people believe the cost of the social and health consequences of drinking excessive alcohol should be factored in to the price of drink. It would take a 25% rise in the price of drink to get two thirds of people to cut down the amount they buy, but the survey concluded that price was the major factor in the amount of alcohol bought by young people.

An overwhelming majority think that alcohol advertising should be restricted, and banned in cinemas showing movies for people under 18. Moreover, they believe it should not be allowed on radio or television before 9pm, and that alcohol adverts should not be allowed on billboards or bus stops. However, a majority would oppose the banning of sponsorship by drinks companies of sporting and musical events.

The main message of the survey is that most people believe that the Government should be doing much more to tackle the problems of excessive alcohol.