Sale of below-cost alcohol

  • Post category:News
Letter to The Irish Times
Sir, – I am pleased to see Michael Creed TD drawing attention to the exchequer loss resulting from the sale of alcohol below cost price (“Reilly says says time to act on below-cost alcohol sales”, October 6th).
From both a public health and financial health perspective, the sale of alcohol below cost should never have been allowed. Below-cost sales fuel the consumption of excessive quantities of the cheapest alcohol. This has a serious negative health impact, particularly for younger people and harmful drinkers, who we know from studies are more likely to drink cheap alcohol.

The State loses twice on below-cost sales. Alcohol-related harm costs the State approximately €3.7 billion annually in healthcare, crime, absenteeism and costs of accidents. The sale of alcohol below cost further reduces the revenue available to the exchequer to the benefit of retailers who can claim a VAT refund on the difference between the sale price and the cost price.

However, a ban on below-cost selling should not be seen as an alternative to introduction of minimum unit pricing; rather it may be a complementary or interim action. We know from modelling conducted in the UK (by the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group) that the impact of a ban on below-cost selling would be 40-50 times less than the impact of minimum unit pricing. Therefore, even with introduction of a ban on below-cost selling, minimum unit pricing should continue to be the highest priority.

My colleagues and I have highlighted this in pre-budget submissions to the Government, calling for introduction of minimum unit pricing at a level which would see alcoholic products sold above cost. Government action to turn off the tap on cheap alcohol, as promised within the public health alcohol Bill, has our full support. It will reduce health impacts and doubly benefit the exchequer and the State. – Yours, etc,



Royal College

of Physicians of Ireland,

Dublin 2.