Home > Most recent regulations of Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 implemented.

Doyle, Anne (2021) Most recent regulations of Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 implemented. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 77, Spring 2021, pp. 15-17.

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October 2018 saw the much-anticipated enactment of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act1 and heralded a recognition by the Irish Government that our nation’s harmful relationship with alcohol could no longer be ignored. The legislation seeks to limit the damage to the nation’s health, society, and economy by reducing alcohol consumption; delaying the initiation of alcohol consumption by children and young people; reducing the harms caused by the misuse of alcohol; and ensuring the supply and price of alcohol is regulated and controlled in order to minimise the possibility and incidence of alcohol-related harm.

The most recent measures from the Act that commenced are Section 22 (structural separation) and Section 23 (restrictions on the sale and supply of alcohol products).

Section 22 – structural separation of alcohol from grocery products

Limiting the physical availability of alcohol is an important measure to reduce alcohol consumption and consequently alcohol-related harm. The Act recognises that alcohol is ‘no ordinary product’.2 This is particularly pertinent to Section 22 of the Act, which requires that alcohol products are kept separate from other grocery products in mixed retail outlets such as supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, and petrol stations. It also requires that alcohol products and advertisements for alcohol products are not visible outside of these designated areas.

Section 22 is intended to ensure that access to alcohol products and the advertising of same is more controlled and less likely to be on display near grocery products, thereby discouraging their purchase as part of everyday household grocery shopping, and less visible to children. Section 22 was commenced on 12 November 2018 and retailers had a two-year lead-in period until 12 November 2020 when they were legally obliged to store alcohol products in one of following options (see Figure 1).3

  • Option A: A single area reserved for alcohol and alcohol-related products separated by a barrier. 
  • Option B: Enclosed storage unit(s) adjacent to each other containing alcohol products and advertisements for alcohol products with height and visibility restrictions. 
  • Option C1: Display of alcohol products and advertisements for alcohol products within a maximum of three adjacent storage units with height and width restrictions on each unit. 
  • Option C2: Closed storage unit behind the counter.

The new regulations, monitored by Health Service Executive (HSE) environmental health officers, do not apply to standalone off-licences, airports, or passenger aircraft. 

Section 23 – restrictions on the sale and supply of alcohol products

Section 23 of the Act refers to the ‘sale and supply of alcohol products’ and four of its regulations came into effect on 11 January 2021. Section 23 regulations4 are intended to prohibit promotions encouraging risky drinking, that is, that encourage individuals to purchase or drink more than they intended or to drink faster than they intended.

1  Regulation 3 applies to the award of or use of bonus or loyalty card points in relation to the sale of alcohol products. Bonus or loyalty card points cannot be awarded from the sale of alcohol or cannot be used to purchase alcohol. This includes loyalty card points awarded on the use of a fuel service station, credit card, energy service provider, phone service provider, holiday breaks, or insurance. Loyalty card points converted to vouchers may not be used to purchase alcohol, including in a restaurant, theatre, cinema, or any other venue providing a similar service.

2  Regulation 4 applies to the sale and advertisement of alcohol products at a reduced price or free of charge when sold with one or more alcohol products, or another product or service: for example, ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘buy one, get one half price’. The same applies in licensed premises, that is, two drinks bought together for less than the price of two individual drinks. A free glass of wine offered at, for example, a nail bar, hairdressers or barbers is not permitted. The purchase of a service such as a manicure or haircut may not result in the offer of an alcohol product free of charge.

3  Regulation 5 applies to the sale and advertisement of alcohol products at a reduced price for a period of three days or less: for example, ‘Student Night’ or ‘Happy Hour’.

4  Regulation 6 covers the prohibition of advertising any of the ‘discount’ promotions outlined above in Regulations 4 and 5.

The regulations apply to the online sale and supply of alcohol products on Irish websites but not to the sale of alcohol by wholesale. A person who contravenes these prohibitions commits an offence and is subject to penalties ranging from a Class A fine or up to three years’ imprisonment.


The implementation of these regulations are welcomed and timely given that we are reportedly drinking more than usual during the Covid-19 pandemic and are buying alcohol from mixed retail outlets due to the closure of pubs.5,6 It is crucial that the remaining elements of the Act are implemented given the current high rates of alcohol consumption, binge drinking, and alcohol dependence in Ireland.

1 Government of Ireland (2018) Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018. Available online at:

2 Babor T, Caetano R, Casswell S, et al. (2010) Alcohol: no ordinary commodity – research and public policy. 2nd edn. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

3 Tobacco and Alcohol Control Unit (DOH) and National Environmental Health (HSE) (2019) Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 (Number 24 of 2018) guidance for industry section 22. Dublin: Department of Health and Health Service Executive. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/33711/

4 Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 (Sale and Supply of Alcohol Products) Regulations 2020 (S.I. No. 4 of 2020). Available online at: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2020/si/4/made/en/print

5 Central Statistics Office (CSO) (2020) Social impact of COVID-19 survey: changes in consumption April 2020. Cork: CSO. Available online at:

6 McQuinn C (2020) More spent on alcohol despite Covid-19 closure of pubs as people switch from beer to wine. Independent.ie, 14 September. Available online at:

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