Home > Joint Committee on Health and Children debate: alcohol marketing: discussion (resumed).

[Oireachtas] Joint Committee on Health and Children debate: alcohol marketing: discussion (resumed). (14 Dec 2011)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_...

Chairman: I welcome the delegations. Witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of evidence they give to the committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they do not criticise or make charges against any person or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they do not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.


Dr. Declan Bedford:  My name is Declan Bedford and I work as a specialist in public health medicine and act as director of public health in the north east. I am grateful for the invitation to attend the committee meeting today. I am joined by a number of my colleagues, including Dr. Eamon Brazil, consultant in emergency medicine in the accident and emergency department at the Mater hospital in Dublin, who will share with me in making the opening statement, and Professor Joe Barry, Department of Public Health, Trinity College and HSE addiction services. The committee has requested information on the health effects and consequences for the health service of problem alcohol use. It is considering alcohol marketing with particular reference to targeting young people and minimum pricing.


The committee has received a written submission, which we hope it found useful, and as such we will keep our opening remarks brief. The submission lists examples of the health-related harm caused by our consumption of alcohol. I reiterate that these are only examples. Report after report has been written on the consequences and the harm caused by our consumption of alcohol. I have some of the reports with me. These reports and other research do not adequately capture the true level of social harms to individuals, their families and their communities. These harms are often hidden from society but they are no less real. Few reports have delved into the stress caused to individuals, families and communities or to staff and other patients in the accident and emergency departments around the country each weekend. Dr. Brazil will talk more about this shortly.


It is worth reflecting on some of the facts. Alcohol kills at least one person in Ireland every seven hours, and alcohol-related deaths increased during the period 1995 - 2004. Alcohol is a contributory factor in half of all suicides in Ireland, it was consumed in four out of ten episodes of self-harm in Ireland in 2010 and alcohol-related admissions to acute hospitals doubled between 1995 and 2008. Some 2,000 acute hospital beds are occupied on average each night as a result of alcohol at a time when the recently passed budget had to cut funding to the health services as a necessity. Alcoholic liver disease rates and deaths almost trebled with a 190% increase, between 1995 and 2007, with figures also revealing considerable increases of alcohol liver disease among younger age groups. Among those aged 15 to 34, the rate of alcohol liver disease discharges increased by 247%.


Alcohol is a factor in one in four traumatic brain injuries and it was the main drug responsible for 7,940 admissions to specialised addiction treatment centres in 2008. There were 1,798 alcohol-related admissions to mental hospitals in 2010 and more than one in eight patients seen the sexual assault unit in Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital last year had so much alcohol consumed, the patient was unsure if there had been an attack. Alcohol is also a trigger in a third of cases of domestic abuse, and low levels of alcohol consumption is associated with a small increase in breast cancer risk, with the most consistent measure being cumulative alcohol intake throughout adult life. Alcohol intake both earlier and later in adult life was independently associated with risk. Binge drinking but not frequency of drinking was associated with breast cancer risk after controlling for cumulative alcohol intake. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder but despite this almost two thirds of women report drinking alcohol during pregnancy with 7% drinking 6 or more units per week.


[Click on this link to the Oireachtas website for the full debate]

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