Alcohol Action Ireland, the national independent advocate for reducing alcohol harm, today (Thursday 15th April) notes the publication by the Health Research Board of its ‘HRB Overview, Series 11: Alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harm and alcohol policy in Ireland’.
This publication provides a clear and timely view of Ireland’s continuing troubled engagement with alcohol use, the scale of the harm endured and the immeasurable cost to our economy and society of lost creativity, enterprise and human potential.
For over 12 years a collaboration of government, its agencies and civil society have worked to establish meaningful alcohol controls and regulations that would curb the demand for alcohol; for 12 years, and some, alcohol producers and their representatives have sought to obfuscate the harm, impede the policy formation, the legislative process and implementation of measures.
Over that time, as this report lays bare, thousands have died: lives written off as an acceptable statistical consequence of sustaining unimpeded market development, while the quality of the lives for hundreds of thousands of children have been traded for unchecked market growth.
The Public Health Alcohol Act, enacted over 900 days ago in October 2018 was a historic moment as it, for the first time, saw an Irish government address alcohol harm as a public health policy. Its provisions across the full capacity of alcohol marketing including price, product, placement and promotion, remain the most coherent suite of measures to reduce alcohol use.
Alcohol will likely always be a feature of an Irish society, however we can, and must, address our consistent harmful pattern of drinking, our hazardous alcohol use and aim for a society free from alcohol harm.
Commenting on the HRB report, Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications Alcohol Action Ireland, said:
This report comes at a critical juncture when An Taoiseach, the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, the Minister of State, Frank Feighan and all the government parties, having recognised the public health benefits arising from minimum unit pricing, are finalising the timing of its commencement. Minimum pricing of all alcohol products will end the universal availability of cheap, strong alcohol, so evident in our supermarkets, convenience stores and neighbourhood shops.
The stark presentation by the HRB of the scale of alcohol harm can only but encourage firm, decisive action, now. We simply can no longer negate the responsibility of protecting public health and the lives of future generations. We must follow the evidence; to do otherwise is unconscionable.
Prof Frank Murray, Chair, Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland, said:
This excellent report demonstrates the enormous pressure our society is under from alcohol related harm. The human toll is tragic but the shocking socio-economic cost, especially as we recover from the COVID pandemic, continues to be a matter Ireland simply cannot ignore. Our Alliance brought together a wide range of public health campaigners including medical professionals, NGOs and charities. We hold a common interest in addressing the widespread damage caused to health by alcohol use and advancing public health policy to address the issue. The Public Health Alcohol Act remains the best opportunity to address this national crisis and as we approach the 1,000 day since its enactment the government now must outline a definitive timeline for its full implementation.