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Home > Youth Council to press Noonan for social responsibility levy on drinks industry.

National Youth Council of Ireland. [National Youth Council of Ireland] Youth Council to press Noonan for social responsibility levy on drinks industry. (31 Oct 2012)

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Red C poll shows 63% agree drinks industry should contribute financially to cost to state resulting from alcohol consumption

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) will call for the introduction of a Social Responsibility Levy on the drinks industry in its Pre-Budget meeting with the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan later today. It will inform the Minister that there is strong public support for such a measure, with a Red C poll for NYCI showing that almost two-thirds of the electorate (63%) agree that the drinks industry should contribute financially to the cost incurred by the state as a result of alcohol consumption.

“The social responsibility levy would be a small additional charge on the drinks industry and go some way to ensure that manufacturers of alcohol products, who gain significantly from alcohol sales, make a greater contribution to address and reduce alcohol misuse. NYCI estimates that a 1% levy on the turnover of the drinks manufacturers would generate in the region of €25m,*” stated James Doorley, Deputy Director of NYCI.

“Furthermore, it could be used to support measures and actions to prevent and reduce alcohol related harm amongst young people. This funding could also be used to replace sponsorship of sporting and cultural events by the drinks industry, which the Government plans to phase out by 2016,” continued Mr Doorley.

Ireland has one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption and binge drinking among young people in Europe. The 2010 Irish Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children study found that:

• Over 50% of young people aged 16 have been drunk and 1 in 5 is a weekly drinker
• 27.4% of 14 year olds have been drunk at least once
• Up to 43% of 16 year old girls had an alcoholic drink in the last month

“There is no safe level of alcohol consumption for young people under 18. Those who begin to drink before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence at some time in their lives compared to those who have their first drink at 20 or older. Apart from the long term health impact on young people, alcohol consumption also contributes to youth suicide, deliberate self harm, accidents, road collisions, anti-social behaviour and unplanned pregnancies amongst young people.

“The National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group estimated that alcohol misuse costs the taxpayer on the healthcare and justice system almost €2.4bn. While the drinks industry pays general taxation, alcohol is not an ordinary commodity and given the costs alcohol misuse imposes on taxpayers it is time that the drinks industry which generates considerable profits from alcohol sales started to contribute directly to addressing the costs incurred by the state as a result of alcohol related harm,” said Mr Doorley.

NYCI is not alone in proposing such a measure, the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group - which is comprised of several Government Departments, medical professionals, public health bodies, alcohol treatment providers and voluntary bodies working in this area such as the NYCI - also recommended the introduction of a social responsibility levy on the drinks industry when they issued their report last January. The levy could also be used to replace funding for drinks industry sponsorship of large sporting and cultural events. The drinks industry uses this sponsorship to market alcohol products to young people and evidence shows that this causes young people to start drinking earlier and more frequently and to engage in heavier drinking episodes.

“There has been a lot of debate about phasing out drinks industry sponsorship of major sports and cultural events by 2016. The sporting bodies have expressed concerned about the loss of financial support. One possible solution is to use the funding from the levy to replace the sponsorship.

“Our proposal is a win-win situation as the drinks industry sports sponsorship which is fuelling under- age drinking is phased out while the sporting bodies will continue to have access to funding. And with the Red C poll indicating such strong public support for such a measure, we believe the Government must act in the upcoming budget and put the public health interest ahead of the private interests of the drinks industry,” concluded Mr Doorley.

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