Irish Examiner – Below cost selling of alcohol ‘should be banned’

The sale of cheap, below-cost, alcohol “should be banned” a Government spokesman has said.

Deputy John Perry, speaking on behalf of Health Minister James Reilly, said the central aim of the upcoming National Substance Misuse Strategy (NSMS), was to “reduce the amount of alcohol we drink in society”.

In what is the clearest statement to date from the Government in relation to alcohol, Mr Perry said the NSMS would be finalised by the end of September.

The strategy was initially supposed to be published by the end of 2010 but has been repeatedly delayed, in part due to the election earlier this year.

Mr Perry said the new framework was focusing on alcohol and wouldbe merged with the national drugs strategy.

“Given the range of health problems that can arise from alcohol consumption or where alcohol is a contributory factor, a central theme emerging is the need for a population health approach with regard to alcohol,” said Mr Perry.

“The central aim is to reduce the amount of alcohol we drink in society. Increasing the age of initiation into drinking is seen as an important step towards achieving this.

“Price, availability and marketing of alcohol are key factors in supply. Below-cost selling of alcohol should be banned,” he added.

Mr Perry said preventive measures were also important, including the promotion of healthier lifestyles.

“This strategy will also consider how best to develop a national integrated treatment and rehabilitation service for alcohol-related disorders and to encourage those affected to engage with and avail of such services.”

Mr Perry cited the findings of a report on alcohol-related deaths by the Health Research Board last week.

It found there were 4,321 deaths associated with alcohol in a five-year period, rising from 654 in 2004 to 1,060 in 2008.

The report said per capita alcohol consumption was “high” in Ireland and 11.3 litres of pure alcohol were consumed on average in 2009. It said Ireland had the third highest consumption rate in Europe in 2008.

The report said a national survey in 2007 found that half of the drinkers surveyed had a harmful drinking pattern, equating to nearly 1.5 million Irish adults drinking in a harmful manner.

It said the World Health Organisation found “convincing evidence” that certain policies can reduce alcohol-related harm, including increased taxes on alcohol and restrictions on opening hours.

The HRB said there was “probable evidence” that minimum prices for alcohol and restrictions on advertising “may reduce alcohol-related harm”.

The previous government cut excise duties on alcohol by 20% in 2010 and did not alter it in 2011.

A European Commission study found that in Ireland alcohol prices in supermarkets and off-licences were half the prices in pubs.

Source: The Irish Examiner – 18/07/11
Journalist: Cormac O’Keeffe