The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will progress through Final and Report Stage in Dáil Eireann today, Wednesday 26 September 2018. This is critical legislation which aims to tackle high levels of alcohol-related harms in the Republic of Ireland.
The overall level and the pattern of alcohol consumption remains a significant concern. Just over three quarters of the adult Irish population drink alcohol, with drinking prevalence higher among men and those aged 25-44.
The most recent Healthy Ireland Survey (2017) reported that 39% of drinkers in Ireland binge drink on a typical drinking occasion. The survey showed that binge drinking is more prevalent among those who are unemployed or living in the most deprived areas. Binge drinking is defined by the World Health Organization as the consumption of 6 or more standard drinks in one sitting and can further increase the risks of disease.
A report by the Health Research Board (HRB) highlighted that in 2013, three people in Ireland died each day as a result of drinking alcohol. Between 1995 and 2013, there has been an 82% increase in the number of people discharged from hospital whose condition was totally attributable to alcohol. The report also highlighted a threefold increase in alcoholic liver disease between 1995 and 2013. In 2014, one- in-three self-harm presentations were alcohol-related.
Alcohol has significant wider societal impacts. In 2013, an estimated 5,315 people on had lost their job due to alcohol use and an estimated 167,170 people suffered an alcohol-related assault.
The original Public Health (Alcohol) Bill proposed a suite of measures in respect of
- Setting a minimum unit price per gram of alcohol in alcohol products
- Structural separation of alcohol products from other products in retail stores, so that it’s not sold like a normal groceries product;
- Restriction of price-based promotions and targeted promotions;
- Health warnings and calorie labelling on alcohol products, with corresponding warning signs and information in pubs and off-licences;
- Regulation of advertising, marketing of alcohol and sponsorship
- An enforcement regime with inspections by Authorised HSE officers and penalties for non-compliance, including fixed payment notices.
The provisions in the Bill resonate strongly with findings from the Reducing alcohol-related harm by addressing alcohol availability - maximising benefits for North South cooperation report which was presented to the North South Ministerial Council by IPH on behalf of the North South Alcohol Policy Advisory Group.
Listen below to an interview for Clare FM with Dr Helen McAvoy, Director of Policy, IPH outlining the public health importance of the legislation.