herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Mixed reaction to new laws on cost of alcohol in bid to curb binge drinking

Women have been warned to beware of 'wine o'clock'
Women have been warned to beware of 'wine o'clock'

PROPOSED new laws outlawing the below-cost selling of alcohol have been met with mixed reactions.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 aims to stop supermarkets and other retail outlets selling booze as a loss leader.

Cigarette packet-style calorie and health warnings will also be made compulsory under new legislation along with stricter marketing laws.

However, no restrictions have been outlined for banning alcohol sponsorship of sporting events.

After the announcement on Tuesday, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said: "The day of €15 for 15 cans of beer are gone."

"Most Irish adults drink too much and many drink dangerously."

Read More: 'Minimum pricing may encourage use of cheaper drugs'

Tanaiste Joan Burton echoed the minister's words while speaking on NewsTalk radio yesterday, saying: "We have a difficulty with alcohol in this country."

She added that the new minimum cost is not meant to be a "prohibitive increase" but merely a tool to stop shops using alcohol to "drive traffic" into their stores.

"I think it's sad to see young men coming out of supermarkets with big slabs underneath their arms," she said.

Scepticism

However, some people are treating the move with scepticism. Consumer Association policy adviser David Jewell has said the proposed "new rules are flawed".

"We welcome any moves to address this issue, but at the moment it just looks like price fixing," he said.

"It doesn't address the underlying social issues associated with alcohol misuse."

Evelyn Jones, the government affairs director for the National Off-Licence Association, also welcomed the news, but is calling on the Government for more information.

Ms Jones said the proposed increase of between 9c and 11c per gram of alcohol is a "reasonable figure".

This means the minimum cost of a unit of alcohol will be set between 90c and €1.10. If implemented, it means a bottle of wine may not be sold legally for less than €8.80 and a can of beer for €2.20.

People before Profit spokesperson Brid Smith slammed the Government's proposed measures, branding them "grossly inadequate".

Ms Smith criticised Mr Varadkar for "refusing to ban sponsorship by the alcohol industry of sporting events".

Suzanne Costello, the CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, expressed similar concerns and said there was "a significant weakness in the proposal".

hnews@herald.ie

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