Home > Dail Eireann debate.Sport Ireland Bill 2014: Second Stage (Continued).

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate.Sport Ireland Bill 2014: Second Stage (Continued). (24 Sep 2014)

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 Deputy Mick Wallace: Reviews of research on the association between exposure to alcohol advertising and subsequent drinking intentions and behaviours shows that exposure to, and recall of, alcohol advertising and sponsorship by children and adolescents predicts their future drinking expectancies, norms, drinking intentions and hazardous drinking behaviours. A study from the United States also found that ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise, such as football shirts and sports caps, by children and adolescents was associated with their early initiation of drinking. Dr. O'Brien went on to state:

Alcohol industry advertising and sponsorship in sport and other settings, creates a culture where children perceive alcohol consumption as a normal everyday part of life. And they see it as something associated with sporting success [or even with just being Irish]. ...   Most of us didn’t grow up in a culture void of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, which makes it difficult for us to imagine sport without them. But given the high rates of hazardous drinking and associated problems in young people (violence, suicide, motor accidents), we probably don’t need to be giving them more encouragement to drink. ...   France has had a complete ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship since 1991. Sport has not suffered and alcohol consumption has decreased in the past 20-odd years. Indeed, France even hosted the 1998 FIFA World Cup with this ban in place and enforced.

Brazil also has a ban but FIFA put increased pressure on it to lift the ban for the World Cup last summer. Sadly, Brazil lifted it. Given FIFA is such a corrupt organisation, it does much that amounts to being sad. I love soccer, but how corrupt is that organisation?   Dr. O'Brien continued: "Similarly, Norway and Turkey have strong restrictions on alcohol advertising in sport, and South Africa is currently drafting a bill to ban all alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport". We could do the same in Ireland.

I refer to a good article in The Irish Times, and give the newspaper credit for it. It states:

          As part of its 2009 investigation into the conduct of the UK alcohol industry, the House of Commons Health Select Committee obtained access to internal marketing documents from both producers and their advertising agencies. The documents were analysed by Prof Gerard Hastings

          His report's title, “They’ll Drink Bucketloads Of The Stuff”, says it all about the alcohol industry's aims. For example, internal documents from the drinks company Carling show that the aim of sponsorship was to "Build the image of the brand and recruit young male drinkers". Carling summed it up thus: "They (young men) think about 4 things: we brew one, and sponsor two of them".

        The internal documents were equally cynical about recruiting young women. A study of 6,600 adolescents in four European countries, published in December 2012 by Amphora, an initiative of the European Commission, found that "Alcohol-branded sport sponsorship influences alcohol consumption among adolescents. Exposure to sport sponsoring can predict future drinking". As DIT marketing lecturer Mr. Patrick Kenny said, sponsorship is important to the alcohol companies because consumers generally have a more benign interpretation of it than they have of advertising. Sponsorship is perceived to be generous and supportive, whereas advertising is seen as motivated by selfish reasons. Consumers' defence mechanisms are low when it comes to sponsorship and high when it comes to advertising.

        A study of 462 Irish teenagers, by Dr. Deirdre Palmer and Dr Gary O’Reilly, found that the average age of starting to drink was 13.4 years. Many young people have an established drinking habit by 15. The younger people are when they start to drink, the more likely they are to experience harm.

        On alcohol abuse, Dr. Bobby Smyth, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, statesalcohol kills 1,200 people per year in Ireland, adding:

        There are 2,000 Irish people in hospital beds today due to alcohol use ... 10% of Irish children say their lives have been adversely affected by their parents drinking. More starkly, it is estimated that parental drinking accounts for one sixth of all cases of child abuse and neglect.

      Former Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Shortall, made a submission to the Oireachtas committee. She proposed an alternative source of funding by revealing a little known VAT loophole. Given that I am in the industry, this was a revelation to me. She stated that if a supermarket sells alcohol at below cost in order to attract customers, it can apply for a VAT refund from the Revenue Commissioners. They are entitled to this refund because they have made a loss even though this loss is planned. In effect, the State subsidises the below-cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets. If there were a complete ban on below-cost selling of alcohol, industry sources say, it could generate as much as €20 million in increased VAT takings which could be diverted towards sport.

        Alcohol Action Ireland estimates that a levy of 1 cent on a standard drink would generate €30 million annually. A levy of 5 cent would bring in €180 million. We must work towards a position where sport does not need alcohol to fund itself. That can be done with some rational thinking on the part of the State. The State should do more than replace it. Given that there is nothing with such a healthy tag as sport, a lot more funding needs to go to all organisations involved sport. Sport is a winner all round. That is why the alcohol industry is so fond of it and will pay a great deal to get its hands on it. I believe this has to change.

        I am as fond of a drink as anybody else. I like a glass of red wine and a good beer. We are not talking about the use of alcohol but about the misuse and abuse of it. The abuse of alcohol is too widespread in this country for our own health. Given we have such a challenge with the Department of Health and it is so difficult to find the funding required to have a good health service, it would be sensible to apply positive thinking in this area and introduce proactive measures that will cut down on the bill of the State for alcohol abuse by dramatically increasing the funding for sport.

      Item Type:Dail Debates
      Date:24 September 2014
      Subjects:B Substances > Alcohol
      J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Prevention by sponsor or setting > Sports based prevention
      MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Policy
      VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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