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Mongan, Deirdre (2016) Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 56, Winter 2016 , p. 4.

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Minister for Health Leo Varadkar launched the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill on 8 December 2015.1 The Bill addresses alcohol as a public health issue for the first time and it aims to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland to 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per person per annum by 2020 and to reduce alcohol-related harm. 

 

Main provisions of the Bill

The main provisions of the Bill include minimum unit pricing, health labelling of alcohol products, the regulation of advertising and sponsorship of alcohol products, structural separation of alcohol products in mixed trading outlets, and the regulation of the sale and supply of alcohol in certain circumstances.

                             

Minimum unit pricing

Minimum unit pricing will tackle the sale of cheap alcohol particularly in the off-trade sector and the price will be set at 10 cent per gramme of alcohol. This means that a 750ml bottle of wine with an ABV (alcohol by volume, alc/vol) of 12.5 per cent cannot be sold for less than €7.50. This is aimed at those who drink in a harmful and hazardous manner and its effects will be felt most keenly by high-risk drinkers. Research by the University of Sheffield has estimated that this measure alone could save €1.7 billion over 20 years by reducing healthcare costs, crime and policing, reducing absenteeism, and improving quality of life.2

                             

Health labelling                                                                           

Compulsory health labelling will mean that alcohol containers are required to carry information about the amount of alcohol measure in grammes and the calorie count; health warnings, including one for pregnancy;  and a link to a public health website (to be set up by the HSE).  On- and off-licences will be required to display a notice with health warnings indicating that grammes and calorie content for ‘poured drinks’ can be found in a document available upon request.

 

Alcohol advertisements

The Bill restricts alcohol advertisements so that they can only give specific information about the product. This will mean that advertisements will be less likely to glamourise alcohol or make it appealing to children. The Bill bans advertising near schools, early years services, playgrounds and public transport. Alcohol-related advertisements will be restricted to films with an ’18 and over’ certificate and there will be a 9.00 pm broadcasting watershed for alcohol advertisements. Advertising will be prohibited in sports grounds for events where the majority of competitors or participants are children, and merchandising of children’s clothing is also restricted.   

 

Structural separation

Structural separation in mixed trading outlets means that alcohol must be stored either in a separate area of the shop through which customers do not have to pass to buy ‘ordinary’ products, or in a closed storage unit(s) which contains only alcohol products. Alcohol products behind check-out points will need to be concealed.

 

Promotions

Promotions whereby alcohol products are sold at a reduced price or free of charge will be restricted or banned; these include promotions targeted to a particular category of persons, and ‘happy hour’ type promotions.

 

Enforcement and review

The provisions in the Bill will be enforced by authorised officers of the HSE. The provisions will be reviewed after three years from commencement to examine their effectiveness.

 

1 Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, Bill Number 120 of 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2015 http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=30442&&CatID=59

2 Angus C, Meng Y, Ally A, Holmes J and Brennan A (2014) Model-based appraisal of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in the Republic of Ireland. Sheffield: ScHARR, University of Sheffield. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/23904/

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