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Minimum unit price will counter alcohol abuse

By Ann Marie Foley - 24 June, 2015

Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children sets out recommendations it would like considered for possible inclusion in the upcoming alcohol legislation.

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An Oireachtas Joint committee has recommended a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol in a bid to reduce harmful drinking.

Under the proposed measure bottles of wine could be set at a minimum of €8, cans of beer at €2 and a bottle of spirits at nearly €24.

Alcohol Action Ireland has particularly welcomed the proposal which is among several aimed at curbing drinking.

“In terms of pricing the committee is spot on, this is the most effective thing to do,” Conor Cullen, Head of Communications and Advocacy at Alcohol Action Ireland said.

He explained that charging a minimum price per unit of alcohol hits those who drink most, for example those who are addicted to drink and young people.

“The pricing, marketing and availability are the big three, all the evidence shows that if you want to reduce the levels of harm (due to alcohol abuse) in society these are the three we need to tackle. If this bill is to be effective,” he said.

The recommendations are in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children report on new legislation on alcohol, which also stated that labeling should be similar to tobacco with clear, graphic and standardised health warnings for maximum effect.

The report states that the MUP of alcohol proposal is backed by evidence-based research presented by the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group which highlighted MUP as a targeted and proportionate response to alcohol misuse.

The Committee recommends setting the price per unit at the upper end of the range currently being examined, which is understood to be between €0.60 and €1.10.

Other recommendations include a social responsibility levy be introduced to capture some of the profit which may arise from introducing a MUP to fund awareness and addiction programmes.

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The report also calls for better regulation in the area of advertising and marketing, including social media; a ban on alcohol advertising on television before 9pm; and a structural separation of alcohol products from other products in mixed retail environment.

“This report sets out a number of recommendations for consideration by the Minister for inclusion in the upcoming alcohol legislation,” said TD Jerry Buttimer, Chairman of the Committee.

“With regard to marketing and advertising regulations, the Committee supports proposals to put the regulation of alcohol advertising on a statutory basis. However, it does not believe that a weak voluntary code will translate into an effective statutory code. On this basis, we believe that the Minister may wish to consider developing updated regulations, with input from health professionals.”

The committee reiterates that sports sponsorship by alcohol companies should be stopped, but the government has already stated that this is not possible “in the medium term”.

flag_250x150“Advertising does influence certain behaviours so it definitely should be removed from sport,” Raymond O’Connor, Project Co-Ordinator, Pioneer Total Abstinence Association.

“When I go into the schools, the young people feel that alcohol is a big part of what it takes to have fun. It is often associated with that. It is a challenge to get people to think seriously about the issue, especially at that age and to make different choices. Our message is to stay off alcohol until 18.”

It will be up to the Minister for Health to decide which recommendations and proposals to include in the final legislation.

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