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[Irish Medical Times] , Culliton, Gary Alcohol sports sponsors in doctors’ crosshairs. (01 May 2013)

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Since 1990 there have been 11 committees and 15 reports giving advice on how to tackle alcohol-related harm, but to little effect.

Although the recession has caused per capita consumption of alcohol to fall slightly, Irish adult drinkers still consume, on average, the equivalent of one bottle of whiskey per man and woman per week. This average consumption is well into the range of hazardous drinking, using WHO definitions.

Last year, proposals to curb alcohol misuse were presented by a Department of Health Steering Group, which included the phasing-out of alcohol sponsorship of sporting and cultural events by 2016. Prof Joe Barry and Dr Bobby Smyth of Alcohol Action Ireland and Dr William Flannery and Dr Eamon Keenan of the Faculty of Addiction Psychiatry at the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland recently outlined their positions to the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee.

At an earlier meeting, the GAA, FAI and IRFU outlined to the Committee the adverse financial impact of a possible ban on the sponsorship of major sporting events by alcohol companies, for their respective organisations.

With 72,000 babies born each year, it is Alcohol Action Ireland’s view that this country now functions as a “conveyor belt”, producing very heavy drinkers, each of whom generates great profits for the alcohol industry. The sports in receipt of the bulk of drinks industry money are rugby, soccer and Gaelic games. These sports are typically played by young men aged 15-to-29 years.

Prof Barry said it was unacceptable that the major sporting bodies were “dismissing the evidence” and stating that they must continue to get funding through alcohol sponsorship. “Of course we do not want the sporting bodies to struggle. Nobody is saying they should.


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