Letter: This is not a question of demonisation but rather prioritizing the health and wellbeing of society as a whole

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Letter to the Irish Independent from Alcohol Action Ireland CEO, Suzanne Costello:

It is important to provide a counterpoint to the views expressed by the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) in yesterday’s edition. The article gave the impression that the alcohol industry had no involvement in the formulation of the proposed Alcohol Strategy.

The alcohol-harm reduction measures proposed for inclusion in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill arose from the Steering Group Report on the National Substance Misuse Strategy. ABFI were one of two alcohol industry bodies represented on the Steering Group and included in the discussions, where they voiced their opposition to the evidence-based recommendations concerning the pricing, marketing and availability of alcohol – measures which international evidence demonstrates will be effective in reducing alcohol-related harm in Ireland.

Legislation, which was strictly enforced, particularly around random breath testing, was a critical part of the suite of road safety measures which dramatically reduced drink driving and road deaths in Ireland.   Strictly enforced legislation for the sale and promotion of alcohol is precisely what is proposed by the Department of Health in its recently published measures.

The alcohol industry is opposed to statutory regulation, preferring instead the existing systems of self-regulation. These systems have proven to be wholly ineffective with regard to public health, particularly the protection of children and the vulnerable.

The World Health Organisation pointed out in August that the development of alcohol policies is the sole prerogative of national authorities. Its Director General Dr Margaret Chan said “the alcohol industry has no role in the formulation of alcohol policies, which must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests”.

The conflicting interests of private profit and public health cannot be reconciled when it comes to reducing our harmful relationship with alcohol; this is not a question of demonisation but rather prioritizing the health and wellbeing of society as a whole.

Yours faithfully,

Suzanne Costello


Alcohol Action Ireland