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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 564 - Alcohol sales [16689/17].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 564 - Alcohol sales [16689/17]. (04 Apr 2017)


564. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Health the actions he has undertaken to date in tackling underage alcohol consumption; the results to date; his views on figures which showed an increase of the number of admissions in Dublin’s three main children's hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16689/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy): Alcohol policy in Ireland has developed over the years. Current policy is outlined in the Steering Group Report of the National Substance Misuse Strategy.

The overall volume of alcohol consumption and the pattern of binge drinking predict the incidence of alcohol-related harm in Ireland. Price, availability and marketing of alcohol are key factors in its supply which in turn impacts on the volume and pattern of alcohol consumption. The strategic objective with respect to the supply of alcohol products is to ensure that the supply and price of alcohol is regulated and controlled in order to minimise the possibility and incidence of alcohol-related harm. This will be achieved by, addressing issues such as - reducing the supply of cheap alcohol - controlling the availability of alcohol - preventing the sale of alcohol to children under 18 years of age and restrictions on alcohol marketing and sponsorship.

It is important to change the culture around drinking and future proof our children from harmful drinking. The Public Health Alcohol Bill includes provisions to address these strategic objectives. The Bill addresses alcohol as a public health measure for the first time.

How affordable alcohol is to the average consumer has a direct impact on consumption - as the price of alcohol increases, consumption rates and harms decrease. Strong and cheap drink is favoured by young people, who have the least disposable income and the highest prevalence of binge drinking. Minimum unit pricing of alcohol products sets a minimum price per gram or unit of alcohol. It is a targeted measure, designed to prevent the sale of alcohol at very cheap prices and will have a substantial impact on alcohol consumption. The Bill introduces a minimum unit price for alcohol products which will help prevent alcohol being sold at pocket money prices.

A licence is required to sell alcohol and this should be reflected in how it is displayed for sale. The separation of alcohol and its reduced visibility in mixed retail shops will stop children associating alcohol with everyday household grocery items.

Alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol earlier and will drink more if they are already using alcohol. The Bill will restrict the amount of advertising that children are exposed to - alcohol free advertising zones around schools, parks, etc. Regulations on the content of advertising will ensure that alcohol advertisements are not appealing to children. We are banning sponsorship of events where majority of participants are children/aimed at children. We are reducing the association between alcohol products and events that appeal to children and restricting advertising of alcohol products at some sporting events. This is the first step in severing link between alcohol and sport.

The most recent European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs shows that use of alcohol and of heavy episodic drinking was less common among Irish students compared to the other countries in the survey.

The Department has also referred your question to the Health Service Executive in relation to alcohol related admissions of children to paediatric hospitals in Dublin. The HSE will reply directly to you.

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