New Alcohol Bill could do huge harm to drinks industry, say producers
The drinks industry has warned that the new Public Health-Alcohol Bill could undermine surging Irish drinks exports, result in lower visitor numbers to distillery heritage centres and even prevent the entry of new boutique spirit manufacturers to the sector.
The warning came as the proposed new legislation was defended by public health campaigners, with Alcohol Action Ireland warning that the priority of the drinks industry was to sell alcohol and not to safeguard public health.
However, the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), the representative body of alcohol manufacturers, warned that the unintended consequences of the new regulations could prove hugely damaging to the drinks industry.
ABFI cited two expert reports by DKM and Power Consultants as highlighting the potential consequences for the industry of alcohol advertising bans and tough new labelling controls that include a cancer warning.
The Irish drinks industry exported goods valued at €1.2bn last year and employs more than 90,000 people directly and indirectly.
The drinks industry warned that a ban on alcohol-related advertising could hit every- thing from drinks exports to tourist numbers visiting Ireland's growing number of whiskey heritage centres.
The DKM report warned that the new regulations could even prevent Ireland being used as a 'test bed' for new drinks products.
However, Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) hit out at the claims.
"We believe the bottom line remains the same - there is an irreconcilable conflict between those who wish to protect public health from alcohol harms and those who seek to guard pecuniary interests selling alcohol," said AAI director Eunan McKinney.
He added that Failte Ireland surveys have found tourists visit Ireland for the people, scenery and historical culture, with industrial distilleries not mentioned in the first 13 most important visitor-influence factors.
Carlow Brewing Company boss Seamus O'Hara said the new measures will have a significant impact.
"The proposed changes to labelling would be damaging for craft breweries like ours," he said. "On the one hand, the Government has identified the craft beer sector as a major driver of future growth, and yet on the other hand it wants to brand our products with a cancer warning label.
"No other country in the world has mandatory cancer labels on alcohol products, and we believe such a measure applies a stigma to products produced in Ireland."