Media release 30 March 2023
Annual alcohol consumption data – some hope of progress but threats on the horizon
Provisional data obtained from Revenue indicates that while alcohol consumption in 2022 has increased compared to 2021 which was expected given the re-opening of hospitality, it has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. This may be an early indicator of impact from the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol. However, more detail is needed on other areas such as patterns of alcohol use and impacts on health.
In 2022 alcohol consumption was 10.2 litres of pure alcohol per capita over the age of 15 year a rise of 7.6% on 2021. The government target is that Ireland should reduce its use to 9.1 litres per capita – a target originally set in 2013 and to be achieved by 2020.
The 2022 level is 12% above this target which is a significant improvement on the level in 2019 which was 18.5% above the target.
It is possible that the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in January 2022 has had an impact on alcohol use. MUP sets a floor price for alcohol beneath which it cannot be sold. A standard drink (eg a half pint of beer, small glass of wine, pub measure of spirits) must cost at least €1. This measure is an important part of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018.
There has been progress in implementing some measures of the Act including structural separation of alcohol products in shops and supermarkets, restrictions on special offers and promotions and some modest measures on restricting alcohol advertising in outdoor settings. However, there are still important measures outstanding including the broadcast watershed for ads, controls on the content of advertisements and labelling of alcohol products with health information.
Commenting on the data, Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland said,
“We welcome this early indicator of possible progress in Ireland’s changing relationship with alcohol. However, there is still a considerable way to go in addressing the harms from alcohol and indeed there are also threats to this progress from proposals in the upcoming Sale of Alcohol Bill which aim to increase alcohol use through increased licensing hours.“
Alcohol harm costs Ireland at least €3.7 billion annually and probably twice that amount when harms to others including children, families and work life are included. At every stage when progressive alcohol policies are put forward, they are met with ferocious resistance from vested interests but improvements in our health and economy can only benefit all of society. Reducing alcohol use can bring about that change.
We urge the government to act swiftly to implement their own policy to reduce alcohol use. In particular we call on Minister for Justice, Simon Harris, to carry out a Health Impact Assessment of the Sale of Alcohol Bill as recommended by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice. Certainly, increasing alcohol availability through longer licensing hours will lead to increased alcohol use and subsequent harms. We note that other jurisdictions are learning from their experiences in this area. For example, Amsterdam is placing further restrictions on alcohol consumption and earlier closures for bars. Some districts in Amsterdam had previously seen an increase of 34% in alcohol related injuries for every one-hour extension of its licensing hours.
Equally we call on Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly to fully implement the Public Health Alcohol Act in particular the Broadcast Watershed for alcohol advertising which would help to reduce the level of alcohol advertising to which our children are exposed. We should not forget that Diageo is the number 4 broadcast advertiser to children in Ireland.
Alcohol volumes and excise receipts data obtained from Revenue.
In 2022, Ireland consumed per person: 12 bottles of gin/vodka as well as 227 cans of beer, 39 bottles of wine and 36 cans of cider.
Population of Ireland data obtained from Central Statistics Office. https://www.statista.com/statistics/710767/irish-population-by-age/
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