Seanad Committee recommendations on alcohol and cancer

  • Post category:Newsletter

Alcohol Action Ireland has welcomed the Seanad Public Consultation Committee’s recommendations on alcohol and cancer – alcohol being a key risk factor for cancer – which were published just in advance of the first anniversary of the National Substance Misuse Strategy report, earlier this month.

Alcohol Action Ireland Director, Fiona Ryan said: “We welcome the Seanad Public Consultation Committee’s report which underlines alcohol, among other lifestyle factors, as a key risk factor for cancer and provides a list of recommendations to reduce alcohol consumption. It is hard reading the report, however, not to be reminded that we heard these recommendations voiced a year ago almost to the day when the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group delivered its report.

“A year on, the question has to be asked – what progress is being made on the key substantive recommendations contained in the National Substance Misuse Strategy and echoed by the Seanad Public Consultation Committee. The Committee is to be praised for the succinctness of its report and its clear and unambiguous recommendations regarding alcohol. It is estimated that one third of cancers could be prevented by changes in lifestyle.”

The Seanad Public Consultation Committee recommends:

  • introducing minimum pricing – a floor price beneath which alcohol cannot be sold
  • Commencing Section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act so that there is structural separation of alcohol from other products, such as groceries, in retail outlets
  • Regulation of alcohol marketing
  • Labelling on alcohol products providing health warnings about the links between alcohol and cancer
  • A national information campaign to provide citizens with information on alcohol use and cancer.

Ms Ryan said: “We know that drinking alcohol, a lifestyle choice that many of us make, is a major risk factor for cancer, with a significant proportion of the most lethal and common cancers attributable to drinking above low-risk limits, but the report points out that one of the lesser known facts among the general public is that breast cancer among Irish women is influenced by high alcohol consumption.

“Ireland has the second highest rate of cancer in the world. We also have high levels of alcohol consumption, with half of drinkers engaging in harmful drinking patterns. If we are to reduce the levels of cancer in Ireland and save many lives in the process, we need to take action to reduce our alcohol consumption. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has made it clear that the most effective actions a government can take to do this are to tackle price, reduce availability and to reduce alcohol marketing.

“Both reports recommend minimum pricing, a floor price beneath which alcohol cannot be sold and Alcohol Action Ireland has brought together a 30-strong coalition of organisations calling for the introduction of minimum pricing, with other members including the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Medical Organisation, the Irish Heart Foundation and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland’s Faculty of Public Health Medicine.

“While minimum pricing would address the relatively low prices some alcohol is selling at in Ireland, commencing Section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act would be a very positive step towards tackling the widespread availability and promotion of cheap booze. We would also like to see legislation introduced so that all packaged alcohol will not only have to provide health warnings on the link between alcohol and cancer, but information on calories – as alcohol is a major factor in obesity, which also increases the risk of cancers,” said Ms Ryan.

“Effective regulation of alcohol marketing, labelling and a national information campaign would be a stark contrast to the current situation, where, through alcohol marketing and advertising, we are constantly bombarded with positive, risk-free images of alcohol use. Alcohol marketing increases the likelihood of young people drinking and of those who are already drinking, drinking more,” said Ms Ryan.

“If the role of placement and promotion in relation to tobacco is recognised – then why are the rules around alcohol placement, promotion, accessibility and availability so different for alcohol? After all, alcohol kills more people than all other drugs combined and this report from the Seanad Public Consultation Committee has shown clearly the extent to which it also contributes to cancer, a cause of so much pain and suffering for so many in Ireland.”