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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Mixed reaction to crackdown on cheap booze

Health Minister Leo Varadkar hope to get the legislation through one of the Houses of the Oireachtas before the general election
Health Minister Leo Varadkar hope to get the legislation through one of the Houses of the Oireachtas before the general election

Minimum pricing for alcohol "penalises responsible customers" while failing to tackle alcohol misuse, one business lobby group has argued amid a mixed reaction to proposed new laws.

Cheap drink promotions are to be banned and shops will no longer be able to display bottles of alcohol behind check-outs under radical new proposals revealed yesterday.

A can of beer cannot be sold for less than €1.97 and a bottle of wine with 12.5pc alcohol content must be no cheaper than €7.40 under the proposed legislation.

Misues

While the proposed legislation was welcomed by doctors and vintners, Ibec - the group representing Irish business - said it "fails to provide effective measures to tackle the serious problem of alcohol misuse".

"Instead, it penalises responsible consumers and a sector that provides valuable employment across the country," chief executive Danny McCoy said.

"It is yet another example of government regulation being introduced without any effort being made to establish the wider economic cost."

Alcohol Action Ireland said the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is a landmark piece of legislation.

Prof Frank Murray of the Royal College of Physicians also called it an "important first step", adding: "Every day doctors see the awful carnage as teenagers, men and women of all ages come to our hospitals as a result of road accidents, fights, falls and other incidents."

Padraig Cummins of the Vintners Federation of Ireland said they welcomed the introduction of minimum pricing.

The legislation addresses the issues of "availability, price, information and display - all of which are crucial", he added.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he hopes to get the legislation through one of the Houses of the Oireachtas before the general election and insisted he was not "cancelling Christmas".

The draconian measures are necessary to reduce the nation's levels of heavy boozing - which are cause death, illness and other social misery, he warned.

Under the plans, ads will be restricted to giving information about the product and cannot glamourise alcohol - and cannot be placed within 200 metres of creches, schools or playgrounds.

Some of the measures will be phased in over three years.

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