Home > Ministers Fitzgerald, Reilly and White announce measures to deal with alcohol misuse.

[Merrionstreet.ie] Ministers Fitzgerald, Reilly and White announce measures to deal with alcohol misuse. (24 Oct 2013)

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Minimum unit pricing and regulation of advertising and sponsorship to be provided for in a Public Health Bill 

The Minister of State for Primary Care, Alex White TD, announced that the Government had, at its Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (22nd October), approved an extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse, to be incorporated in a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.
Minister White said, “this is a landmark day. It is the first time alcohol misuse has been addressed as a public health issue. The Government has recognised the severe consequences of the misuse of alcohol – including deaths, injuries and social and financial problems – and has determined to take action to address this problem. The package of measures to be implemented is the result of intensive discussions across Government departments, and will include provision for minimum unit pricing for alcohol products and the regulation of advertising and marketing of alcohol.”
Continuing, Minister White said, “to implement this range of measures, the Government approved the drafting of the first ever piece of public health legislation to address the problem – the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.” The package of measures is based on the 2012 Substance Misuse Report. “The Report correctly identified that the misuse of alcohol could only be addressed through a range of complementary measures, rather than through any one single initiative”, said the Minister.
Welcoming the Government decision Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said, “alcohol misuse in Ireland is a serious problem with two thousand of our hospital beds occupied each night by people with alcohol related illness or injury. This impacts on families and individuals at every level of society. It’s deeply worrying too that young people are starting to drink earlier and to drink more. The average Irish person over the age of 15 is consuming the equivalent of a bottle of vodka a week. The Government is committed to tackling these problems and this week’s decision marks a significant further step in that direction to create an environment where responsible consumption of alcohol is the norm.”
Children’s Minister endorses measures which will help address impact of alcohol misuse on children, young people and families

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald said “I welcome this package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse. The impact of alcohol misuse on children and families is significant. It causes immense damage and insecurity in childhood – a burden that is carried well into adulthood. The Substance Misuse Steering Group recognised this when it reported on the harms of alcohol to children and the havoc it provokes in families.”
“In addition, the group reported that exposure to alcohol advertising and promotion increases the level of drinking among existing young drinkers. The measures approved by Government recognise the gravity of alcohol misuse. It has approved this package to address this harm and I look forward to its speedy implementation for the benefit of children, families and communities.”

Major Measures Announced in Landmark initiative tackling alcohol misuse
The key measure approved by the Government is the drafting a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to provide for:
1) Minimum unit pricing for retailing of alcohol products
·         MUP sets a minimum price for per gram of alcohol in the product
·         It will target alcohol cheap relative to strength- particularly low cost products in the off-trade especially supermarkets
2) regulation of marketing and advertising of alcohol, specifically to
a) limit advertising of alcohol on television and radio from 2016 to evening hours
b) limit advertising of alcohol in cinemas to films classified as over 18s
c) restrict advertising of alcohol in outdoor media from 2018 with a statutory code of practice to govern such advertising in the interim
· Work will be undertaken with relevant government departments to put in place a process which will identify the forms, frequency and prevalence of outdoor media advertising to be either encompassed or exempted from any restrictions
d) advertising of alcohol in print media will be regulated by way of a statutory code
e) Set limits on how alcohol is portrayed in advertisements (e.g. prowess or sexual content)
3) Enforcement powers will be given to Environmental Health Officers in relation to
a) regulations relating to the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol products under section 16 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008
b) structural separation of alcohol from other products under section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 which may be commenced
c) Any provision(s) of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which require enforcement measures
4) Structural Separation
The Departments of Justice and Equality and Health have agreed a 3-step approach to provide for the structured separation of alcohol from other products in mixed trading outlets. This involves replacing the current voluntary code with a statutory code under Section 17 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 and after 2 years both Departments will review its effectiveness in achieving the policy objectives of Section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008.
5) Regulation of sports sponsorship,
The government recognises the public health concerns associated with alcohol sponsorship of sport and the potential impact of any regulatory measures on funding for sports organisations
a) The existing voluntary code that governs sports sponsorship will be placed on a statutory footing
[NOTE: A working group chaired by the Department of An Taoiseach will report within 12 months on
i) The value, evidence, feasibility and implications (including the public health consequences for children and young people) of regulating sponsorship by alcohol companies of major sporting events,
ii) Its consideration of financial implications and alternative sources of funding for sporting organisations to replace potential lost revenue arising from any such regulation]
6) Health labelling of alcohol products which will see
a) Health warnings and advice (including for pregnancy) on all alcoholic drink containers (bottles, cans etc.) and on promotional materials;
b) The amount of pure alcohol as measured in grams and the calorie count contained in each container/measure on the label/container.
1) Public health messaging relating to alcohol will be based on grams of alcohol and that weekly low-risk drinking guidelines should be 168 grams (17 standard drinks) and 112 grams (11 standard drinks) for men and women respectively

2) The other measures (eg for the HSE, professional bodies etc) set out in the National Substance Misuse Strategy, upon which provide the recommendations and evidence for today’s decision, are endorsed and are to be progressed by the relevant departments and organisations as set out in that report.
Notes for Editors
(1) Rationale
· Irish adults drink too much and drink in a harmful pattern.
· In 2011, the average per-capita pure alcohol consumption for everyone over the age of 15 was 11.63 litres; this roughly equates to a bottle of vodka per week per person over the age of 15.
· Given that 19% of the adult population are abstainers, the actual amount of alcohol consumed per adult drinker is considerably more.
· There was a 161% increase in the numbers of off-licences opening between 1998 & 2010.
· Over the same period the number of pub licences decreased by 19%.
(2) Target
Ireland will seek to reduce its consumption of alcohol to the OECD average by 2020 (i.e. 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per captia).

(3) Evidence
The Steering Group reported that 1.5 million Irish drinkers drink in a harmful pattern. Alcohol:
·          was responsible for at least 88 deaths every month in 2008; 1 in 4 deaths in young men were estimated to be due to alcohol,
·         is a contributory factor in half of all suicides and in deliberate self-harm; it also increases the risk of more than 60 medical conditions – such as cancers;
·         is associated with 2000 beds being occupied every night in Irish acute hospitals;
·         is associated with harms to the baby because of mothers drinking during pregnancy and is a factor in unplanned pregnancies;
·         increases the risk of children needing special care with an estimation that adult alcohol problems are associated with 16% of child abuse and neglect cases;
·         was a trigger in a third of domestic abuse cases;
·         related illness cost the healthcare system €1.2 billion and alcohol-related crime cost an estimated €1.19 billion, both in 2007; the cost of lost economic output due to alcohol was estimated to be €527 million in 2007 and finally, alcohol related road accidents cost an estimated €530 million in 2007.
(4) Evidence from Public Opinion Poll
The survey found – among other things that:
·         there is strong agreement (85%) that the current level of alcohol consumption is too high;
·         70% know someone who drinks too much alcohol;
·         78% think that the Government has a responsibility to implement public health measures to address high alcohol consumption;
·         61% believe that the people who drink alcohol should contribute to the health-related costs of excessive alcohol consumption and that 42% believe the alcohol industry should contribute to these costs;
·         almost 6 out of 10 people surveyed support minimum unit pricing of alcohol.
(5) National Substance Misuse Strategy Recommendations
The recommendations of the National Substance Misuse Strategy report to tackle alcohol abuse are grouped under the five pillars of
·         Supply Reduction:
·         Reduce the supply of cheap alcohol; Control the availability of alcohol; Prevent the sale of alcohol to minors; Restrict alcohol marketing and sponsorship; Prevent drink-driving.
Raise awareness generally and deploy measures to delay children starting to drink.
Treatment and Rehabilitation
The aim is to develop a national treatment and rehabilitative service that promotes early intervention and that is based on integrated care. Particular emphasis is put on family support services (especially children affected by parental drinking), aftercare and detoxification.
The Steering Group recommended the collection of data on alcohol to identify the prevalence and patterns of alcohol use and misuse; demand for alcohol treatment; alcohol-related deaths; public expenditure; and harm reduction in order to inform policy development and services delivery. 

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