Government urged to prioritise health

From the Wicklow People

ALCOHOL ACTION Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, said the Government needs to prioritise the public’s health and implement the Alcohol Action Plan in full.

The Alcohol HarmReduction Plan is based on recommendations put forward in the Steering Group Report on the National Substance Misuse Strategy published in February of this year.

Alcohol Action Ireland Director Fiona Ryan said,’ This Government has an unprecedented opportunity to get it right when it comes to alcohol policy and to make a real difference to people’s health and the quality of our lives. What’s more this Government will have the popular support of the majority of the population for such measures as – a minimum price for alcohol and restrictions on alcohol advertising on television until after 9pm, outdoor advertising and social networking sites.’

Referring to a divergence of opinion in Government as to what measures needed to be implemented, Ms Ryan said, ‘It has been reported that a dichotomy is emerging between evidence-based public health measures for reducing alcohol-related harm which are supported by the World Health Organisation and a belief that alcohol is the problem for a small minority of the population and that measures should only be targeted at them.

‘ There are two problems with that position: the first is that the facts simply do not support such an assertion and the second is the presumption that alcohol is only a problem for a drinker and not those around them. Half of us are drinking at levels that are harming our health: if we were all drinking at our maximum low risk levels of alcohol consumption then we would be expected to be drinking over nine litres of pure alcohol a year, as it stands we are drinking over 11.6 litres – so who is drinking the extra two litres of alcohol a year?

‘Likewise the belief that only a certain type of problem drinker needs to be targeted forgets that the costs of alcoholrelated harm go beyond those of the drinker, which are substantial in themselves. One in 11 children is currently living with a parent whose alcohol use is impacting negatively on their lives – that’s 100,000 children.

‘ Likewise we know that alcohol plays a huge part in public order crime and other forms of violent crime. Financially, alcohol-related harm costs us all an estimated  €3.7 billion a year including  €1.2 billion on health and  €1.2 billion on crime.’

Ms Ryan said that a recent Health Research Board IPSOS MORI poll, which revealed similar findings to those in an Alcohol Action Ireland poll two years ago, underlined popular support and demonstrated a year on year backing for: minimum pricing, restrictions on alcohol advertising on television until after 9pm, outdoor advertising and social networking sites.

At a recent Alcohol Action Ireland conference Minister Alex White said he intended to bring the Alcohol Action Pan to cabinet before the end of this year.