New law will ban buying booze with loyalty card points
Supermarket customers will no longer be able to buy booze with loyalty points under a new government clampdown.
The tougher rules will also bar stores from awarding points for alcohol purchases.
In a further anti-drink drive, shops will be banned from flagging special offers to lure customers into buying more drink at a discount.
That means offers such as a second slab of beer for half price as part of a two-product deal will be outlawed.
Health Minister Simon Harris announced yesterday that he plans to trigger the new measures, which are part of the Public Health Alcohol Bill, subject to approval from the EU.
The aim is to have the legislation in place by next September.
The move will also see an end to short-term price promotions of three days or less.
"Alcohol is not an ordinary grocery product," Mr Harris said.
"By restricting access to alcohol products through promotions or loyalty card programmes, the regulations align with the objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, which are to reduce alcohol consumption and reduce the harms caused by the misuse of alcohol.
"Alcohol is a drug, and one that has real risks and harms associated with it and, as such, should not be a subject of promotional activity."
Alcohol Action Ireland welcomed the move, saying it was "a small but significant step in reinforcing the principle that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity".
Spokesman Eunan McKinney said it is time for the Government to set a timetable for the introduction of minimum-unit pricing of alcohol as well as other major parts of the legislation.
A spokeswoman for Tesco Ireland said: "We are mindful of our role as a responsible retailer of alcohol and are fully compliant with the Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland (RRAI) Code of Practice. We note this proposal and are reviewing."
Vincent Jennings, the chief executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, criticised the timing of the move.
He said it will only encourage more shoppers to go North at a time when the Republic faces the uncertainty of Brexit.
Although the measures will have a lesser impact on convenience stores, Mr Jennings questioned why the majority of people who do not have a problem with alcohol are continually penalised.
"Somebody has to think for the business people also," he added.