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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 31 - Substance misuse [Youth drinking] [6900/14].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 31 - Substance misuse [Youth drinking] [6900/14]. (13 Feb 2014)

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31. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health his position regarding dealing with binge drinking by young people; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6900/14] 

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Ireland has a significant alcohol problem which needs decisive and innovative action to address it. Last October, the Government approved an extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse to be incorporated in a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. These measures are based on the recommendations contained in the Steering Group Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy. The aim is to reduce alcohol consumption to the OECD average by 2020 (i.e. 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per capita per annum). In 2011 the average per-capita pure alcohol consumption for everyone over the age of 15 was 11.63 litres in Ireland.


A broad range of complementary measures is required to successfully reduce consumption of, and harms associated with, alcohol misuse. The package of measures to be implemented will include provision for minimum unit pricing, regulation of the marketing and advertising of alcohol, regulation of sports sponsorship, structural separation of alcohol from other products in mixed trading outlets and labelling of alcohol products. Minimum unit pricing is a mechanism of imposing a statutory floor in price levels per gram of alcohol that must be legally observed by retailers in both the on and off trade sector. Its primary function would be thus to discourage at risk levels of alcohol consumption and is targeted in particular at harmful and hazardous drinking. The Government also agreed that new low risk limits for alcohol consumption be introduced based on Irish standard drink of 10 grams of alcohol i.e 11 standard drinks or 112 grams of pure alcohol per week for women and 17 standard drinks or 168 grams of pure alcohol per week for men.


Work is continuing in my Department on the development of a framework for the implementation of these measures. A health impact assessment, in conjunction with Northern Ireland, was commissioned in 2013, as part of the process of developing a legislative basis for minimum unit pricing. The health impact assessment will study the impact of different minimum prices on a range of areas such as health, crime and likely economic impact. The study should be finalised by mid-2014.


The other measures (e.g. for the HSE, professional bodies etc) set out in the Steering Group Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy, were endorsed by Government and are to be progressed by the relevant departments and organisations. The HSE has responsibility for implementing a number of recommendations, including a number specifically aimed at young people, and this is reflected in the HSE Service Plan for 2014.

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