Time to tackle Irish drink culture

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Letter to The Irish Times

Sir,  – The issue of the profoundly negative social impact of alcohol use and abuse in Ireland has engaged much discussion recently. The negative impact on health and premature death has been less discussed, but deserves more attention.

Alcohol is the third major cause of premature death and disability in Europe, after cigarettes and hypertension, and is the major cause of death in men aged 35 to 50. Nearly all mortality from alcohol is related to recent alcohol intake, so reduction in alcohol intake will have an immediate benefit on mortality.

In Ireland, we have the twin problems of increased affordability and dramatically increased availability of alcohol.

To immediately reduce harm from alcohol, I suggest the adoption of two strategies proven internationally to reduce alcohol related harm. These are increased price and reduced availability of alcohol.

The adoption of minimum unit pricing for alcohol will reduce the widespread availability of cheap alcohol. Increased price of alcohol has been proven to have an immediate impact on alcohol-related mortality internationally.

Reducing the availability of alcohol through a decreased number of outlets selling alcohol and reduced opening hours are also of proven benefit.

It is in the interests of the individual members of our society to act on these two initiatives.

The alcohol-benefiting industries will protest loudly, but they should not be allowed to formulate health-related policy. Self-regulation of the alcohol industry has proven not to work. The interests of public health and social order are aligned here, and I suggest that voters will support these actions.

I believe we should act urgently to implement the initiatives to increase cost and reduce availability of alcohol. The benefits will be seen immediately.  – Yours, etc,



Registrar Royal College of

Physicians of Ireland,

Dublin 2.