Report on Progress of PHAA

Where is the urgency to reduce alcohol harm?


Alcohol Action Ireland publishes its review of progress today (1st December 2022) in alcohol harm reduction during European Alcohol Awareness Week.

Annual alcohol use per drinker in Ireland is 235 cans of beer, plus 11 bottles of gin/vodka, plus 39 bottles of wine, plus 35 cans of cider. Unfortunately, such high levels mean that every day four people die in Ireland from alcohol, 1,000 hospital beds are occupied from alcohol related illness and 200,000 children endure the trauma of living with alcohol harm in the home.

Ireland has the tools to reduce some of this harm through legislation – the Public Health (Alcohol) Act (PHAA) which provides for modest measures including controls on pricing and advertising as well as ground-breaking proposals on health information labelling on alcohol products including cancer warnings.

This report examines the implementation of these measures which will also be highlighted at a webinar today (1 December 2022) including input from Dr Zubair Kabir, School of Public Health, UCC and Dr Nathan Critchlow, University of Stirling.

There are notable achievements including the introduction of:

  • Minimum Unit Pricing
  • Structural separation of alcohol products in shops
  • Controls on special offers to encourage the sale of alcohol
  • Controls on outdoor and cinema advertising of alcohol
  • Measures around alcohol sports marketing including a ban on sponsorship of children’s events and a ban on advertising of alcohol on the field of play during sports events

In addition, there is progress on health information labelling which is currently going through the EU regulatory process but which has yet to be implemented.

However, there are still a number of critical measures outstanding including:

  • Broadcast watershed for alcohol advertising
  • Controls on content of alcohol advertising

The report not only points to the lack of progress in some areas but also highlights particular threats to the overall intent of the Act. For example, the advertising of zero alcohol products using identical branding to their alcoholic counterparts in areas banned under the Act and very particularly the recently announced Sale of Alcohol Bill.

Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO, Alcohol Action commented:

:We warmly welcome the progress that has been made but there is a great deal of frustration that measures to reduce the saturation level of alcohol advertising seem to have ground to a halt. Marketing is currently driving drinking at frightening levels. The question has to be asked, where is the urgency to tackle alcohol harm in Ireland?

Another highly significant threat is the recent announcement of a Sale of Alcohol Bill with proposals to substantially increase licensing hours. Given that the aim of the PHAA is to reduce alcohol use by

20% there is a mismatch between the speed and intent of these proposed changes and the slow pace of implementation (PHAA).

It is interesting though, to see the excellent approach by government to another public health concern – gambling – through the recently agreed General Scheme of Gambling Regulation Bill. This Bill has strict controls on advertising (including a complete ban on internet advertising) and licensing. It is clearly putting the welfare of the individual at the heart of its measures with proposals for an industry levy to pay for treatment services, education and research. This is in distinct contrast to the Sale of Alcohol Bill which is putting the welfare of industry above that of public health. This is an astonishing approach given the scale of alcohol harm in Ireland with almost 600,000 people having an alcohol use disorder, 90,000 at a severe level.

The thrust of this Bill points again to the need for a statutory Office for Alcohol Harm Reduction which would co-ordinate all aspects of alcohol regulation in Ireland including licensing, marketing and promotion, strategic development of treatment services, education/prevention programming, commissioning of relevant data, plus monitoring and evaluation of policy in this area.”


1. Where’s the Urgency? Review of implementation of the Public Health Alcohol Act

2. Out of balance? – Alcohol policy in Ireland webinar

3. Media guide re non-stigmatising language