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[Medical Independent] , Lynch, David Tackling Ireland’s alcohol love affair. (22 Oct 2015)

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The publication of the long-awaited Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is expected soon and one leading campaigner has told this newspaper that it is the “most important public health bill introduced in Ireland in recent years”.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar recently wrote that it “will tackle alcohol misuse through minimum unit pricing (MUP), tough new advertising restrictions, hard-hitting health warnings, and penalties for breaching the sponsorship code”.

So this Bill comes with high expectations. However, there have also been some more cautious reactions. For instance, the failure to include a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sporting events has disappointed many, while others have pointed to the fact that the fight against alcohol misuse in Ireland goes well beyond the scope of the Bill.

The epic scale of this challenge was made even clearer following the recent publication of the first Healthy Ireland Survey.

“Consumption of alcohol in Ireland is much higher than in many other countries,” the nationwide survey finds.

“The rate of binge-drinking in Ireland is second in the WHO (World Health Organisation) European region. While the misuse of alcohol has become normalised in Irish society, it presents a variety of problems, including approximately 90 deaths per month.”

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