Ministers Fitzgerald, Reilly and White announce Measures to Deal with Alcohol Misuse
Minimum Unit Pricing and Regulation of Advertising and Sponsorship to be provided for in a Public Health Bill

Thursday 24 October 2013

The Minister of State for Primary Care, Alex White TD, announced that the Government had, at its Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (22nd October), approved an extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse, to be incorporated in a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

Minister White said, “this is a landmark day. It is the first time alcohol misuse has been addressed as a public health issue. The Government has recognised the severe consequences of the misuse of alcohol – including deaths, injuries and social and financial problems – and has determined to take action to address this problem. The package of measures to be implemented is the result of intensive discussions across Government departments, and will include provision for minimum unit pricing for alcohol products and the regulation of advertising and marketing of alcohol.”

Continuing, Minister White said, “to implement this range of measures, the Government approved the drafting of the first ever piece of public health legislation to address the problem – the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.” The package of measures is based on the 2012 Substance Misuse Report. “The Report correctly identified that the misuse of alcohol could only be addressed through a range of complementary measures, rather than through any one single initiative”, said the Minister.

Welcoming the Government decision Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said, "alcohol misuse in Ireland is a serious problem with two thousand of our hospital beds occupied each night by people with alcohol related illness or injury. This impacts on families and individuals at every level of society. It's deeply worrying too that young people are starting to drink earlier and to drink more. The average Irish person over the age of 15 is consuming the equivalent of a bottle of vodka a week. The Government is committed to tackling these problems and this week's decision marks a significant further step in that direction to create an environment where responsible consumption of alcohol is the norm."

Children’s Minister endorses measures which will help address impact of alcohol misuse on children, young people and families

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald said "I welcome this package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse. The impact of alcohol misuse on children and families is significant. It causes immense damage and insecurity in childhood - a burden that is carried well into adulthood. The Substance Misuse Steering Group recognised this when it reported on the harms of alcohol to children and the havoc it provokes in families.”

"In addition, the group reported that exposure to alcohol advertising and promotion increases the level of drinking among existing young drinkers. The measures approved by Government recognise the gravity of alcohol misuse. It has approved this package to address this harm and I look forward to its speedy implementation for the benefit of children, families and communities."

ENDS

Major Measures Announced in Landmark initiative tackling alcohol misuse

The key measure approved by the Government is the drafting a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to provide for:

1) Minimum unit pricing for retailing of alcohol products

2) regulation of marketing and advertising of alcohol, specifically to

3) Enforcement powers will be given to Environmental Health Officers in relation

4) Structural Separation

The Departments of Justice and Equality and Health have agreed a 3-step approach to provide for the structured separation of alcohol from other products in mixed trading outlets. This involves replacing the current voluntary code with a statutory code under Section 17 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 and after 2 years both Departments will review its effectiveness in achieving the policy objectives of Section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008.

5) Regulation of sports sponsorship,

The government recognises the public health concerns associated with alcohol sponsorship of sport and the potential impact of any regulatory measures on funding for sports organisations a) The existing voluntary code that governs sports sponsorship will be placed on a statutory footing

[NOTE: A working group chaired by the Department of An Taoiseach will report within 12 months on

6) Health labelling of alcohol products which will see

OTHER MEASURES AGREED BY GOVERNMENT

Notes for Editors
(1) Rationale
(2) Target

Ireland will seek to reduce its consumption of alcohol to the OECD average by 2020 (i.e. 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per captia).

(3) Evidence

The Steering Group reported that 1.5 million Irish drinkers drink in a harmful pattern. Alcohol:

(4) Evidence from Public Opinion Poll

The survey found – among other things that:

(5) National Substance Misuse Strategy Recommendations

The recommendations of the National Substance Misuse Strategy report to tackle alcohol abuse are grouped under the five pillars of

Supply Reduction:

Reduce the supply of cheap alcohol; Control the availability of alcohol; Prevent the sale of alcohol to minors; Restrict alcohol marketing and sponsorship; Prevent drink-driving.

Prevention

Raise awareness generally and deploy measures to delay children starting to drink.

Treatment and Rehabilitation

The aim is to develop a national treatment and rehabilitative service that promotes early intervention and that is based on integrated care. Particular emphasis is put on family support services (especially children affected by parental drinking), aftercare and detoxification.

Research

The Steering Group recommended the collection of data on alcohol to identify the prevalence and patterns of alcohol use and misuse; demand for alcohol treatment; alcohol-related deaths; public expenditure; and harm reduction in order to inform policy development and services delivery.

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