advocating to reduce alcohol harm

Government must prioritize health and not let corporate interests influence its bid to reduce alcohol-related harm in Ireland

Alcohol Action Ireland says Diageo’s threat to scale back its Irish operations highlights the potential of proposed measures to improve public health

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol related issues, has called on the Government not to bow to pressure from corporate interests as it prepares its plan to tackle alcohol-related harm.

“Diageo’s threat to pull back on its Irish operations if the Government implements a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports is the clearest example yet of the alcohol industry’s ongoing attempts to translate its financial power into political power and halt the current attempts to tackle this country’s harmful relationship with alcohol,” said Professor Joe Barry of Alcohol Action Ireland.

“Unfortunately, this financial power already allows the alcohol industry to effectively speak on behalf of our sporting organisations, which are dependent on its sponsorship, but our Government must resist these tactics, which are effectively a crude effort to influence and shape the public health policy and alcohol strategy that will ultimately affect the alcohol industry’s products.

“The reality of the situation is that for our harmful relationship with alcohol to be addressed we need to change our culture and to drink less. That is the overall aim of all the recommendations of the Steering Group Report on the National Substance Misuse Strategy, of which the recommendation to phase out alcohol sponsorship is just one,” said Professor Barry.

“We have heard continuously from the industry – despite the large body of evidence to the contrary – that these sponsorship deals don’t help it sell more of its products and don’t influence the drinking habits of our young people. Despite this, we learned at the weekend that there’s a fear within Diageo that if these deals are phased out its Irish business could be ’diminished’ and it’s clear from the threat that followed that the alcohol industry is concerned that these proposed measures, if implemented, will work,” said Conor Cullen, Communications Officer with Alcohol Action Ireland.

“It is not surprising that the alcohol industry would oppose these measures, as they have the potential to impact on its bottom line. However, it’s important to remember that the result of an effective alcohol strategy won’t just be that we, as a country, drink less, but that this will, in turn, reduce our high levels of alcohol-related deaths, disease, crime and the many other alcohol-related harms that currently take such a heavy toll on our society and are felt by every community throughout Ireland,” said Mr Cullen.

“We have seen before that when industry gets involved in policy-making the most effective measures are significantly watered-down or left out entirely and we need our Government to ensure that this doesn’t happen here and that we finally make a real and lasting impact when it comes to tackling this country’s harmful relationship with alcohol.”

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For further information or comment please contact Conor Cullen, Communications Officer, Alcohol Action Ireland, on 01-8780610 or 087-9950186