Galway City Alcohol Forum welcomes the publication of the Public Health Alcohol Bill

The Public Health Alcohol Bill is a landmark piece of legislation and a critical first step in addressing one of our most significant public health problems. Alcohol misuse claims three lives every day in Ireland and has a hugely damaging impact on our physical and mental health.

The three key evidence-based areas required for changing a harmful drinking culture – alcohol pricing, marketing and availability – are represented in the legislation, which is very encouraging, as is the move to introduce labelling, with health information provided by the State. This legislation also supports the work of the local Galway City and Alcohol Strategy to Prevent and Reduce Harm (2013 – 2017).

One of the key areas is the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP). MUP sets a ‘floor price’ beneath which alcohol cannot legally be sold and is designed to stop the sale of strong alcohol products at very low prices in the off-trade, particularly supermarkets. The widespread availability of such cheap alcohol has caused such a dramatic shift in our patterns of alcohol consumption. It is important to note that MUP will have no impact on the price of alcohol sold in pubs, clubs or restaurants and will have little or no impact on those who drink in a low-risk manner. As well as being supported by the medical and public health sectors, MUP is also supported by Ireland’s publicans and off-licence owners.

Another area that the Bill focuses on alcohol marketing. Reducing children’s exposure to alcohol marketing is a child protection issue. Therefore, the Bill’s measures to restrict and deglamourise alcohol marketing is very important, as this marketing is a sophisticated and powerful influence on children’s drinking expectations and behaviour. Ultimately, increased exposure to alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they have already started.

Conor Cullen, Alcohol Action Ireland explained that “we have seen before that when we regulate effectively to protect public health and safety, as we did with tobacco legislation, there can be great benefits for Irish society, and the Public Health Alcohol Bill has the potential to have a similar impact in respect of our harmful relationship with alcohol. Our legislators, and all those both nationally and locally concerned with reducing alcohol-related harm in Ireland, must resist the pressure the alcohol industry will continue to exert in relation to the Bill and continue to put the health and wellbeing of the Irish people first until it is fully implemented’.

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