Home > Seanad Éireann debate - Commencement matters [Alcohol].

Seanad Éireann debate - Commencement matters [Alcohol]. (22 Feb 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...

Deputy Martin Heydon

I wish the students good morning and it is great to have them here. On behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, I wish to thank Senator Clifford-Lee for raising this matter. I agree with her point that this is not a small matter and that it is important to people looking at it. In every debate we have to have little bit of balance and talk about all the impacts such a decision would have and I might address that in my response. I take on board that this is an important matter.


The Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 was designed to address the harm that can be caused by alcohol consumption. According to data from the Global Burden of Disease study, an estimated 4.8% of our deaths and 5.2% of our disability adjusted life years were attributable to alcohol in 2019. The primary policy objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 are: to reduce alcohol consumption to 9.1 l of pure alcohol per person per annum; delay the initiation of alcohol consumption by children and young people; reduce the harms caused by the misuse of alcohol; and regulate the supply and price of alcohol to minimise the possibility and incidence of alcohol related harm.


The Act introduces a suite of measures to contribute to a reduction in alcohol consumption and health harms, including: the regulation of advertising and sponsorship; the display of products in mixed retail outlets; and health labelling. Section 12 empowers the Minister for Health to make regulations on the labelling of alcohol products. Under the section, the label of an alcohol product must display the quantity of grams of alcohol in the product and the number of calories. In addition, a label must display: a warning to inform young people of the danger of alcohol consumption; a warning to inform people of the danger of alcohol consumption when pregnant; a warning to inform people of the direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers; and the address of the HSE website, AskAboutAlcohol.ie, which gives information on alcohol and related harms.


The section also requires that the same health warnings and information on the HSE website must be on notices in licensed premises and displayed on websites which sell alcohol. In the case of the notices in licensed premises and on websites, the information must be in both the Irish and the English languages, whereas the information on labels is required in the English language only. During the passage of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act through the other House in 2018, there was a debate on whether the information on labels should be in both the Irish and the English languages. In that debate, the then Minister for Health set out that the requirement for information on labels is a new obligation that is being placed on commercial operators and that the intention was that this obligation should be proportionate. The new requirements will move Ireland's alcohol labelling from a position where there is no health information on the product to one where there will be six new pieces of information to display on the label. In order that the obligation on commercial operators would be as minimal as possible, but still achieve its required effect, it was discussed and ultimately agreed in the Dáil that the Irish language requirement would not apply to these labels.


[For the full debate, click here to the Oireachtas website]

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