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Home > Seanad Eireann debate. Order of business [Alcohol, cancer, marketing]

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate. Order of business [Alcohol, cancer, marketing]. (04 Dec 2014)

Senator Mary M. White:  It was a great pleasure to attend an Oireachtas cross-party meeting this morning organised by the Irish Cancer Society and Alcohol Action Ireland. Last Friday evening, I held a public forum on threats to women's health. It was addressed by Ms Suzanne Costello, the chief executive of Alcohol Action Ireland, and the rock star of oncology, Senator Crown. Both of them were adamant about the serious effects of alcohol on women's health.

I have two key points for the Leader. On Friday and again this morning, Ms Costello spoke about huge increases over the past 50 years in the number of women drinking in Ireland. We all know about that. In my time, it was taboo for women to go into a pub and drink. They could smoke all they liked, but a woman did not drink in a pub.

Senator Terry Leyden:  Unfortunately.

Senator Mary M. White: That taboo has faded away, however. Alcohol marketing campaigns are now focused on women, particularly on young women to make them look sexy. Ms Costello said that younger women tend to drink spirits rather than beer, leading to them to drink more units of alcohol on average than men of the same age. That is very serious.

The other key point, and the bottom line at the meeting, was the association between alcohol and breast cancer, which is really not on the radar. Drinking one standard alcoholic drink a day is associated with a 9% increase in the risk of a woman developing breast cancer, while drinking three to six standard drinks per day increases the risk by 41%. There is a national emergency, so the message must be got out about how dangerous drinking is for women, particularly concerning breast cancer.

Senator Terry Leyden:  Senator White provided some good facts and statistics. The reality, however, is that the Government is allowing low-cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets. That has had the effect of putting terrible pressure on the licensed trade, including bar owners, although I do not want to cite any vested interests.

Senator Michael Mullins: I hope the Dáil bar is doing well, though.

Senator Terry Leyden: Sunday newspapers are practically exclusively carrying advertisements for Tesco, SuperValu, Dunnes Stores, Aldi and Lidl. Last Sunday, they were advertising 25% off three litres of alcohol - gin, vodka and whiskey. People were urged to buy it fast in the store or get it delivered. Supermarkets are selling alcohol at a lower cost than publicans can buy it from wholesalers.

(Speaker Continuing)

[Senator Terry Leyden: ] That is a fact, which I can prove conclusively. Supermarkets are selling alcohol below cost to attract customers. More alcohol is being consumed but a larger percentage of young people are drinking at home, yet the publicans who run a good business and try to ensure their customers drink proportionately are being victimised in this regard. It has led to the closure of pubs throughout the country and this will continue next year unless the Government introduces a Bill to outlaw the below-cost selling of alcohol. All people are looking for is a level playing pitch. It is attracting the abuse that Senator White so eloquently outlined. The responsibility for this lies with the four people running the country - the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. They are the leaders of the country. There is no Cabinet responsibility anymore because it is not consulted. The remaining Ministers are cabbages. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Finance to come to the House to explain why he cannot bring in legislation to ban below cost selling of alcohol? I will leave all the other products out of the debate because there is a vast range but alcohol is a risky substance.

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