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Bishops criticise sports omission from alcohol bill

By Sarah Mac Donald - 12 March, 2015

“Sponsorship of sporting events targets young people and promotes a culture which suggests that healthy living is synonymous with alcohol consumption.”

beerThe Irish Bishops have expressed their disappointment that the proposed Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 does not include plans to phase-out advertising and marketing of sporting events by the drinks industry.

Following their spring general meeting in Maynooth this week, the Bishops’ Drugs Initiative (IBDI) warned that the promotion of alcohol is about profit.

The bishops have highlighted that feedback from the IBDI schools’ programmes clearly points to the high level of influence exerted on young people by the drinks industry through its advertising, marketing and sponsorship campaigns.

“Sponsorship of sporting events targets young people and promotes a culture which suggests that healthy living is synonymous with alcohol consumption,” they warned on Wednesday.

Stating that the results can be “devastating”, the bishops warned that sponsorship of sporting events encourages underage and binge drinking, leading to alcohol dependence later in life.

“In the same way that the law now prevents advertising, marketing and sponsorship by tobacco companies, similarly the Bishops’ Conference endorses the call on Government by the IBDI to ban sports sponsorship by the drinks industry,” the bishops stated.

They said the Government should assist through its relevant agencies in securing sponsors for sports organisations.

Separately, the bishops welcomed the signing into law by President Higgins of plain packaging for tobacco products bill.

Over one million people smoke cigarettes on the island of Ireland.

The bishops noted the pressure exerted by corporate lobbying or legal threats on this issue.

Describing the new law as “an important public health initiative”, they said it should act as a deterrent, especially for teenagers, to prevent people from starting the highly addictive and damaging habit of smoking.

The Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative is a cross community support working in over 250 parishes involving over 1,000 volunteers, to assist parishes and communities to address the challenges of alcohol/drugs misuse.

The IBDI operates in the north and south of Ireland.

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