Plans to put existing code of conduct on sport’s sponsorship on a statutory footing weaken the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

Plans to place the existing voluntary code of sports sponsorship on a statutory footing will do more harm than good, and will act as a barrier to alcohol harm reduction among young people in particular.

That’s according to Alcohol Action Ireland, which was responding to media reports that the forthcoming Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will integrate the existing code of sports sponsorship.

According to Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action: “The existing code of practice written by, and regulated by, the alcohol industry is ’light touch’ in nature and fails to protect children from exposure to alcohol advertising.   Placing this on a statutory basis effectively rules out any action to protect children from exposure to alcohol advertising for a generation.

“Comprehensive evidence shows that children and young people are not only exposed to a large amount of alcohol promotion through sports sponsorship, but that their behaviour and beliefs are influenced by these messages about alcohol and its use, increasing the likelihood that they will start to drink, and drink more if already using alcohol. Alcohol sponsorship of sport works by increasing sales and, as a result, alcohol consumption. If this wasn’t the case, the alcohol industry simply would not be spending so much money on sponsorship.

“Unfortunately, our sporting organisations are now also one of the primary vehicles through which the alcohol industry markets its unhealthy products. A ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport would decelerate the relentless promotion of alcohol in Ireland, particularly children and young people’s exposure to it, and diminish the overall potency of alcohol advertising, thereby reducing alcohol consumption.

“The medical and public health experts in Ireland are all agreed on this issue and yet their expertise and evidence is challenged by vested interests with no medical or public health expertise.

“Our legislators need to do what is right for the health and well-being of society, as they previously did with tobacco for instance. Not to do so would be a failure to protect future Irish generations from the huge amount of alcohol-related harm that we currently experience,” added Ms Costello.