Irish Times – Tackling the cost of alcohol harm

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Madam, – As the mandarins in Merrion Street are preparing for the most costly budget in our State’s history, I would like to endorse the proposal by Alcohol Action Ireland (PriceWatch, October 18th) for the establishment of a social responsibility levy on the producers of alcohol, as is currently being considered in Scotland, a country similar to our own in terms of the level of damage from alcohol.

With the Irish alcohol market worth €6 billion per year and €3.27 billion as the estimated costs of resulting harm from consumption falling on us as taxpayers (not including the incalculable emotional costs of human distress on families), surely the Government needs to counteract the worldwide recent and not so recent image of Ireland as a country marinating in alcohol?

The Scottish government has stated that it considers it wrong “for the full burden of providing these services (health and legal) to be met by the taxpayer” and that the “additional cost of providing services should be met by those who profit from the sale of alcohol and profit from other types of licensed premises”.

Should we not expect a similar ethical statement from our own parliamentarians, or are we, as taxpayers, willing to continue to pay the high price of alcohol-related harms? Such a statement would involve the dismantling of yet another cosy relationship between big business and government.

Such a levy would signal to the world that Ireland was at last paying serious attention to the costs of alcohol-related harm on the economy and on the health of our population.

It might help to alleviate the costs of treatment of the 60 different medical conditions caused by alcohol, as well as the 15 per cent level of overall hospital costs attributable to alcohol.

Not least, the thousands of individuals and their families affected by alcohol-related harm in this country currently need a signal that the issue is taken seriously by the provision rather than the reduction of appropriate and timely services. – Yours, etc,

The Maudlings,
Co Kildare.


Source: The Irish Times, Letters, 25/10/10