More than 1,700 Irish people have died from alcohol-related illnesses since the current recommendations to reduce alcohol-related harm were first published, says Alcohol Action Ireland

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, has called on the Government to show the courage required to finally tackle our harmful relationship with alcohol by implementing the recommendations to reduce alcohol-related harm currently before it without further delay.

“The recommendations of the steering group on the National Substance Misuse Strategy, which have been subsequently brought forward by Minister Alex White and which the Cabinet is due to discuss today (Monday), effectively represent a blueprint for changing our harmful relationship with alcohol,” said Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland.

“Undoubtedly these measures require careful consideration, but they are the result of three years of work by the steering group and they are evidence-based policy measures that will work to reduce alcohol-related harm if implemented.

“These recommendations, taken together, provide a practical and achievable means to bring about a positive change in our country’s relationship with alcohol, but more than 1,700 Irish people have died from alcohol-related illnesses since that report was published in February 2012 and still we have seen no definitive action from Government,” said Ms Costello.

“It’s clear that we can no longer afford the human or economic costs associated with our high levels of alcohol-related harm and we need to tackle the three key areas of the pricing, marketing and availability of alcohol if we are to save lives and reduce the massive financial burden on the State.

“The introduction of minimum pricing and addressing the structural separation of alcohol are vital if this range of measures is to work. Alcohol has never been as cheap or as widely available as it is now and we need to ensure that it is no longer sold at pocket-money prices and as if it were just another everyday household item or grocery, not a substance with the potential to cause great harm to those using it, their families and the wider community.

“While these measures will go some way towards addressing the supply of alcohol, we also need to address the demand for it, which is why the recommendations surrounding alcohol marketing, including the phasing out of alcohol sponsorship of sports, are so important. These well-resourced advertising and marketing campaigns are powerful influences on beliefs and behaviour around alcohol and its use and our young people, in particular, need to be protected from them through effective legislation,” said Ms Costello.

“The reality is that if Government shows the courage required to back the full range of recommendations being brought forward by Minister White then we can reduce our alcohol consumption from our current levels of 11.7 litres per capita to the 9.2 litre target set out in the Healthy Ireland plan and, in the process, make a huge difference to the health, safety and well-being of the people of this country.”