Minimum alcohol price plans welcomed

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rosisin-shortallMinister of State for Health Róisín Shortall’s comments outlining that she is in favour of introducing a minimum price for alcohol sold in supermarkets and other shops have been welcomed by Alcohol Action Ireland.

Deputy Shortall recently told the Oireachtas Committee on Health the forthcoming national substance misuse strategy would set targets to reduce alcohol consumption levels right across the population.

The issue of pricing is key, she told the Committee; before adding that the problem of cheap alcohol and its increased availability was “brought home” to her when she looked at figures published by Alcohol Action Ireland.

The figures showed that a woman could reach her low-risk threshold by spending just €6.30 and a man €10. She said she was “personally committed” to introducing minimum pricing.

“Alcohol is a major problem in this country,” Deputy Shortall told the joint committee.

“As a society we need to face up to it. As a society we drink too much.”

The comments come following a similar announcement by the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) that they too backed calls by Alcohol Action Ireland for a minimum price for alcohol.

Revealing the likely proposals of the forthcoming national substance misuse strategy, Deputy Shortall also said she was “determined” to end the practice of alcohol being sold alongside normal goods, saying she was “not satisfied” with a voluntary industry code.

She told the committee she wanted cross party support to back the new strategy to “remove this terrible blight on society” in terms of the “damage alcohol has done to individuals, families and the health of Irish people”.

She also said some of the drinks companies and their lobbyists had contacted her repeatedly to seek meetings with her, while the steering group was still formulating the new strategy but she had “not been available”.

Alcohol Action Ireland Director Fiona Ryan said: “The Minister needs to be congratulated for bringing real leadership and clarity to the issue of alcohol being sold at pocket money prices in Ireland.

“We are all paying too high a price for cheap alcohol in this country, with each taxpayer picking up a €3,318 a year tab to pay for alcohol-related health and crime costs – not to mention the immeasurable human costs.”

Earlier this month, the VFI, which represents almost 4,500 pubs outside of Dublin, said it “strongly believes” that a minimum price for alcohol and tighter regulations around how alcohol is promoted and sold “would go a long way towards tackling binge drinking and the associated problems this brings”.

Minimum pricing is the lowest price at which alcohol can be sold, and the cost of a product is based on the number of units of alcohol it contains.

The more units in a bottle, the higher the price. It affects people directly in relation to how much they drink so primarily hits heavy drinkers and young people who are more likely to consume low-cost alcohol.

To read more, view Alcohol Action Ireland’s publication Alcohol in Ireland: Tackling the Financial Hangover and the case for minimum pricing