We can no longer afford the price of cheap alcohol, says Alcohol Action Ireland

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, has said that any analysis of “the economic contribution of the drinks industry” must take into account the huge costs associated with harmful drinking in Ireland.

“No analysis of the alcohol industry’s contribution to the Irish economy is complete without also looking at how much it costs us. The alcohol industry may provide around €2 billion in VAT receipts, but that’s just over half the estimated €3.7 billion cost of alcohol-related harm to the State every year,” said Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland.

“The report from the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) focuses on the struggling pub sector, but, as we all know, what’s really hitting the pub sector is not Excise Duty, but the fact that alcohol has never been as cheap or as widely available in the off-trade, with supermarkets, in particular, driving down the cost of alcohol and also driving a change in our consumption patterns towards more home-drinking. Many pubs may be struggling, but the alcohol industry is not and continues to make massive profits, with over €6.3 billion spent on alcohol in Ireland last year, according to a recent report from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

“This cheap alcohol is also fuelling a growing health crisis in Ireland that is costing us an estimated €1.2 billion a year in health costs alone, before you get to the other hugely significant costs associated with alcohol-related crime, public order offences work-place absenteeism. And those are just the economic costs – they don’t take into account the three people dying each day from an alcohol-related illness in Ireland, the significant role that alcohol plays in half of all suicides or more than half of all cases of child neglect,” said Ms Costello.

“As a country, we can no longer afford the price of cheap alcohol. At a time when we need to do more with less and are approaching yet another very tough Budget, it is worth remembering that these costs are avoidable costs – we do not need to be drinking at such harmful levels – and we can do something about it. We would urge the Government to introduce minimum pricing and the other key measures recommended in the Steering Group Report on the National Substance Misuse Strategy as a matter of urgency if we are to reduce the huge economic and social burden that our alcohol consumption currently places on our society.”