Home > Joint Committee on Health and Children Debate. Update on Health Affairs: Discussion with Minister for Health and HSE (Continued) [Alcohol].

[Oireachtas] Joint Committee on Health and Children Debate. Update on Health Affairs: Discussion with Minister for Health and HSE (Continued) [Alcohol]. (23 May 2013)

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

….Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: I have another question which I do not know whether the Chairman will allow. I do not see this issue being dealt with at all. I refer to the €3.7 billion bill that the State faces every year due to alcohol abuse. There was a report published by former junior Minister, Deputy Roisín Shortall, which got a massive amount of media coverage. 

Chairman: She did not produce a report. This committee produced a report.
Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Fair enough. I wonder what is happening about this. Is there something being done about the price of and ease of access to alcohol? Is anything happening? I attended all of the meetings of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications on the ban on alcohol advertising. Given the scarity of resources and that it costs the State €3.7 billion a year, I wonder what is happening with it. I am a little disappointed with the way the matter is proceeding.
I also am disappointed that, among many of the members of the committee who spoke on the issue of alcohol abuse, it seems unpopular to do anything about this. Members seem to be running a mile from it and we cannot do that.
Chairman:For the purposes of clarification, when this committee was formed, it was the initial topic of deliberation that we took on as a priority. We produced a report, which we gave to the former Minister of State, Deputy Róisín Shortall. The Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, will respond to Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan on that.
Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan:What was done with the report?
Chairman:It is a priority, as are drugs. The committee shares Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan's concerns regarding alcohol and I thank him for raising it this morning……..
Deputy Alex White: I thank Deputy Flanagan for his support on the issue of alcohol. I am aware that he gave very strong support to the public health dimension at a different committee meeting, when he was, perhaps, in a minority. I thank him, other members and particularly the members of this committee, who have a public health perspective. Others have different perspectives, and that is fine also. Our perspective, as stated very well by the Minister, is that alcohol presents a public health issue, particularly in respect of children and young adults. I have no doubt that advertising and sponsorship have an impact on the conduct and behaviour of children and young adults, in particular. I am told by others, including colleagues in the Government, that there is no evidence for this, but there is evidence. There is no direct behavioural link such that someone who sees a billboard will go straight for a drink because the process is far more subtle, but the close association of alcohol with major sporting events is totally inappropriate and should and will be addressed. What I have been trying to do in recent months is maximise agreement across all Departments and Ministers. As with many tasks, this has taken longer than I would have hoped for. We have been doing what I describe with a view to bringing to the Government the memorandum that would have the maximum agreement associated with it. What the Minister, Deputy Reilly, said is absolutely correct.
Chairman:Has the Minister of State a timeline for that?
Deputy Alex White:There is a good chance that the memorandum will be signed off this very week. It will be ready in the next couple of weeks. It will deal with the issues of pricing, ease of access to alcohol, and advertising and sponsorship.
Deputy James Reilly:The Minister of State and I have been working on this aggressively. The Minister of State has led the charge and I am 100% behind him. I have had meetings with senior Cabinet colleagues on the matter in order to seek agreement. As with the Minister of State, I am hopeful that the memorandum will be signed off this week.

Let me make one point that I got distracted from making on the power of advertising. I thank Deputy Flanagan for his support in regard to it. In a survey carried out on 12-year-olds, they were not able to name one brand of tobacco but could name five brands of alcohol. That shows the power of advertising.

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