Home > Public support for measures to address alcohol use.

Mongan, Deirdre and Long, Jean (2012) Public support for measures to address alcohol use. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 43, Autumn 2012, pp. 1-2.

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Alcohol consumption
The results of a new survey, Alcohol: Public knowledge, attitudes and behaviour,1 show a strong belief among 1,020 survey respondents (85%) that the current level of alcohol consumption in Ireland is too high, and a general perception (73%) that Irish society tolerates high levels of alcohol consumption. The survey was commissioned by the Health Research Board and done by Ipsos MRBI. A considerable majority of respondents (72%, 744) say they know someone who, in their opinion, drinks too much alcohol, and of those, 42% say that the person is an immediate family member. Almost 6 out of 10 (58%) do not think that the government is doing enough to reduce alcohol consumption, while only 19% think that the government is doing enough. Over three-quarters (78%) believe that the government has a responsibility to implement public health measures to address high alcohol consumption, and there is support for implementing some of the specific  measures in the recently published Steering group report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy.2  

Measuring personal alcohol consumption
People have difficulty measuring their own drinking using the standard drink measure, but almost 6 out of 10 (58%) have heard of the term ‘standard drink’. One in ten respondents correctly identified the number of standard drinks in each of the four measures of alcohol asked about in the survey. Only one in ten (9%) people know the recommended maximum number of standard drinks (proxy for low-risk drinking) that they can safely consume in one week, 14 for women and 21 for men.
Alcohol pricing
Around three-quarters (76%, 777) have bought alcohol in a supermarket in the past few years. Just over half (52%) of these respondents believe that the price of alcohol has fallen in supermarkets, with almost one quarter (23%) believing that it has remained at the same price and 17% believing that the price has increased. Of those noticing a decrease in the price of alcohol, one-quarter (25%) say that they have increased the amount they buy and this is more common among those aged 34 years or under (at 34%). Overall, 24% would buy more alcohol in supermarkets if the price were to decrease. Half of those aged 18–24 years claim they would buy more alcohol if supermarkets decreased prices.
It would require a 25% price increase to get at least two-thirds (67%) of those who bought alcohol in a supermarket to reduce the amount that they bought.
Opinion is somewhat divided on whether short-term price promotions encourage respondents to buy more alcohol than usual, with 45% agreeing that they buy more alcohol at such times and 39% disagreeing. Those aged 18–24 years are most likely to respond to such promotions, with almost two-thirds (65%) saying that they buy more when alcohol is on special offer or when the price is reduced.
Almost 6 out of 10 (58%) respondents support minimum unit pricing for alcohol. Support is strongest among those aged 35–64 years, at 65%. Over one-fifth (21%) would not support a minimum price for alcohol, with the lack of support (at 33%) highest among those aged 18–24 years. It is generally accepted that the greater the increase in alcohol prices the greater the reduction in purchasing, and that this has most effect on younger and heavy drinkers.
Forty-seven per cent agree that the government should reduce the number of outlets selling alcohol, while 28% disagree; agreement is strongest among women (50%) and those over 44 years (54%). Forty per cent agree with selling alcohol in separate premises from food and other household products, while 32% disagree. The majority (66%) believe that distance sales are an easy way for young people to obtain alcohol and only 15% believe that distance sales are strictly monitored.
Alcohol advertising
The majority support restricting certain forms of alcohol advertising, and two-fifths (40%) would support a ban on all alcohol advertising. Almost 8 out of 10 (78%) believe that alcohol advertising should be limited to the product itself rather than being associated with images of the type of person who consumes the brand. Eighty per cent support banning alcohol advertising in cinemas before screening movies rated as suitable for viewing by those aged 17 years or under. Seventy-six per cent support banning any alcohol advertising on TV and radio before 9.00pm. In total, 70% support banning alcohol advertising on social media and 57% support a ban on alcohol advertising on billboards and at bus stops
Alcohol industry sponsoring sporting events
Overall, two-fifths (42%) support a ban on the alcohol industry sponsoring sporting events, and over one-third (37%) support a ban on sponsoring musical events. Support is somewhat higher among women (49% for sport and 45% for music) and in those 45 years or over (47% for sport and 46% for music). The main lack of support for discontinuing sponsorship is among men (54% for sport and 57% for music) and those under 44 years of age (51% for sport and 59% for music).
Information labels on alcohol products
There is a desire for better labelling of alcohol containers, with very strong support for all four suggested forms of information on the labels of alcohol containers. The vast majority of respondents want information on the alcohol strength (98%), the number of calories (82%), details of alcohol-related harms (95%) and a list of ingredients (91%).
Alcohol consumption and driving
There is good knowledge about the dangers of driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and there is strong support for measures to detect and deter such driving practices. Ninety per cent do not agree that it is safe to drive after two alcoholic drinks; 75% do not agree that it is safe to drive after one alcoholic drink. There is near universal support (94%) for the mandatory testing of the alcohol levels of drivers involved in traffic accidents. Over 8 out of 10 (84%) agree that those convicted of drink driving on more than one occasion should have an ‘alcohol lock’ fitted in their car.
Paying for the consequences of alcohol consumption
There is support for the suggestion that alcohol consumers and the alcohol industry should contribute to the health-related costs of excess alcohol consumption. Sixty one per cent believe that people who drink alcohol should contribute, and 42% believe that the alcohol industry should contribute to these costs. Only 27% believe that the State, through taxation, should contribute to these costs.
As with the health-related costs of excessive drinking, the majority believe that those who drink alcohol (71%) followed, to a lesser extent, by the alcohol industry (30%) and then the State through taxation (22%) should contribute to the costs of alcohol-related public disorder, relationship difficulties and financial loss.
The findings in this survey are consistent with those of the general population survey,3 surveys among school children4 and other public opinion surveys.5
This survey was conducted for the Health Research Board by Ipsos MRBI in May 2012 using a standard quota sample method in order to ascertain the knowledge, views and behaviours of 1,020 people. The age, gender and place of residence of the sample selected are representative of the 2011 Census population. The proportion of people who do and do not drink alcohol is consistent with the 2007 SLAN survey. The questionnaire was drafted by the Health Research Board and finalised in collaboration with Ipsos MRBI. The HRB asked Ipsos MRBI to analyse the questions by gender and age.
1. Ipsos MRBI (2012) Alcohol: public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours. Dublin: Health Research Board. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/18022
2. Steering Group on a national substance misuse strategy (2012) Steering group report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy. Dublin: Department of Health.  www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16908
3. Morgan K, McGee H, Dicker P, Brugha R, Ward M, Shelley E et al. (2009) SLAN 2007: survey of lifestyle, attitudes and nutrition in Ireland. Alcohol use in Ireland: a profile of drinking patterns and alcohol-related harm from SLAN 2007. Dublin: Department of Health and Children. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/12664
4. Hibell B, Guttormsson U, Ahlström S, Balakireva O, Bjarnason T, Kokkevi A and Kraus L (2012) The 2011 ESPAD report: substance use among students in 36 European countries. Stockholm: The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN) and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/17644
5. Fanning M (2010) Have we bottled it? Behaviour and attitudes survey. PowerPoint presentation at the ‘Have we bottled it? Alcohol marketing and young people’ conference organised by Alcohol Action Ireland in Dublin on 15 September 2010. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/14122

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