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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 162 - Alcohol pricing [48598/14].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 162 - Alcohol pricing [48598/14]. (17 Dec 2014)

162 Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Health when the general scheme of the public health (alcohol) Bill will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48598/14]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar):  The Government has 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, 2012. 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.   

The key measure is the drafting of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which will include provisions for minimum unit pricing, restrictions on marketing and advertising, structural separation of alcohol from other products in mixed trading outlets and labelling of alcohol products, among other measures. Minimum unit pricing is a key part of our strategy to deal with alcohol misuse. It is, I believe, the one measure that will make the most difference most quickly. Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) sets a minimum unit price for alcoholic drinks below which alcohol cannot be sold. Under MUP, alcohol which is cheap relative to its strength is increased in price. MUP is able to target cheaper alcohol relative to its strength because the minimum price is determined by and is directly proportional to the amount of pure alcohol in the drink. It is mainly aimed at those who are higher risk, such as adolescents and people who have a harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption pattern. It should therefore only have a marginal effect on moderate drinkers. There is strong and clear scientific evidence that an increase in alcohol prices reduces hazardous drinking and serious alcohol related problems. My Department, in conjunction with our colleagues in Northern Ireland, commissioned a health impact assessment from Sheffield University as part of the process of developing a legislative basis for minimum unit pricing. The research studied the impact of different minimum prices on a range of areas such as health, crime and the economy. The report's findings are under consideration. Officials in my Department are liaising with their Northern Irish counterparts on the introduction of minimum unit pricing. Work on developing a framework for the necessary Department of Health legislation is continuing and it is intended to publish a General Scheme of a Bill in January.

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