Children and young people still exposed to alcohol as if it were ‘milk’

Children and young people still exposed to alcohol as if it were ’milk’ – new drink sales law is missed opportunity

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, today welcomed new restrictions on alcohol sales but said the law did not go far enough with children and young people still being exposed to alcohol in shops and supermarkets as if it were an “ordinary product” like milk or fruit juice.      

Alcohol Action Ireland Director Fiona Ryan said: “While Minister Ahern is to be congratulated on addressing some of the public order aspects of alcohol-related harm, the fact remains that children and young people are still seeing alcohol in supermarkets and shops next to aisles with milk and fruit juice and other foods and drinks. By not differentiating alcohol from other food and drink products we are sending out the message that it is just the same as any other food or drink.”

The Government Advisory Group on Alcohol, asked to examine the issue, expressed particular concern back in March regarding the increase in the number of supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations with off-licenses, as well as the conditions under which alcohol was promoted and sold in these locations.

Ms Ryan said: “One of the Government’s aims in introducing this legislation was to reduce the availability and visibility of alcohol. One of the ways it was proposed that this could be done was to separate alcohol from other products in supermarkets and convenience stores in recognition of the fact that it is not an ordinary product like milk or fruit juice. This proposal has subsequently been abandoned in favour of a voluntary code with the ’reserve option of triggering’ relevant sections of the Act if this does not prove effective. How is this voluntary code going to be monitored? In the mean time, children and young people will still be exposed to widespread availability of alcohol. Marketing does not just mean advertising, it also means product placement and effectively children and young people are being marketed to.  

“Alcohol is not just an ordinary product, it is a substance that can increase social enjoyment but can also have a profound impact on the individual in terms of their behaviour, with reduced inhibition and increased risk-taking known effects. We know this impact is even more pronounced on children and young people and that they can be catapulted into situations they are developmentally unready for as well as running the risk of real neurological damage. The Government has missed a genuine opportunity to send out a strong message that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity and in doing so it has meant the continued widespread exposure of children and young people, and by extension families and communities, to alcohol-related harm.”

For more information contact:

Niamh Tierney at Alcohol Action Ireland on (01) 878 0610