Health Committee recommendations welcome – but political action needed to make them a reality

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, today welcomed the Dail Health Committee’s recommendation backing minimum pricing and a raft of other measures on alcohol availability and marketing but urged political action to make the recommendations a reality.

Director Fiona Ryan said: “The Health Committee has shown real leadership in the debate on alcohol consumption and harm and the fact that these measures have all party support is very welcome since it shows increased recognition for the fact that we in Ireland have real problems with alcohol consumption and it is costing us in terms of health, crime and finances with the latest estimates putting the figure at €3.7 billion.

“There have, however, been other worthwhile reports on alcohol that have made similar recommendations. What is now needed in order to make a real difference is political will and political action to follow through on these recommendations.”

Ms Ryan pointed out that the Committee’s findings reflected the World Health Organisation’s findings on the top measures to reduce alcohol-related harm which include pricing, availability and alcohol marketing.

In relation to minimum pricing she said: “We hope that a minimum price for alcohol – a floor price below which alcohol cannot be sold – will now be considered and taken on board as a realistic option for reducing alcohol consumption. At the moment, we have alcohol for sale in shops and supermarkets which can work out cheaper than a bar of chocolate in the same shop.”

Ms Ryan also singled out the recommendation from the committee to restrict alcohol marketing through a 9pm TV watershed and a ban on alcohol marketing on social networking sites: “Mass marketing of alcohol is a concern because alcohol marketing influences young people’s drinking behaviour. Alcohol education in schools or government can never hope to counter existing levels of commercial alcohol marketing.

“The committee was right to highlight digital marketing and particularly alcohol marketing via social networking sites since the current voluntary codes are so inadequate, it is effectively unregulated. A survey we commissioned showed that 30% of 16 to 17-year-olds with a social networking page had received an unsolicited alcohol ad or alcohol pop-up.

“How can the current voluntary codes on alcohol marketing be achieving their stated aim of reducing young people’s exposure to alcohol marketing when this is happening? We don’t even have a baseline figure on the extent of overall alcohol marketing young people are being exposed to.”

Alcohol Action Ireland’s call for minimum pricing is being backed by the following organisations: Barnardos, The ISPCC, Foroige, the National Youth Council of Ireland, The No Name Club, St Vincent De Paul, Focus Ireland, Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Royal College of Physicians, The Irish Medical Organisation, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, The Irish Cancer Society, The Irish Heart Foundation, The North West Alcohol Forum and the Ballymun Local Drugs Taskforce.

For more information contact: Fiona Ryan 087 219 5723 or (01) 878 0610