Average alcohol consumption falling, says report


THE AVERAGE alcohol consumption per person fell in the last decade to 12 litres per year – 17 per cent below the 2001 peak, according to an industry report.

The Estimates of Average Adult Alcohol Consumption 2001-2011report was commissioned by the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland.

The body said the findings should be taken into account in formulating policy, particularly in the forthcoming National Substance Misuse Strategy.

An alcohol awareness campaign group urged caution in reading the decline as a positive indicator of the State’s alcohol consumption, however. Alcohol Action Ireland pointed to an increase in excise in 2003, as well as the fact that one person in five does not drink alcohol.

Author of the report Anthony Foley of Dublin City University business school said average alcohol consumption declined from its peak in 2001 of 14.4 litres per adult to 13.5 litres per adult in 2003.

“It broadly stayed at this level until 2007, and in 2008 it declined to 12.5 litres per adult. There was a further decline in 2009, followed by an increase in 2010 and no change in 2011 [at 12 litres].”

Mr Foley said the 2009 and 2010 figures were influenced by the changing level of cross-Border purchases of alcohol.

“Part of the recorded decline in 2009 and part of the recorded increase in 2010 are due to this influence.”

Mr Foley said the census of population had been revised upwards for last year, with further revisions due for the years 2007-2011.

“This will lower the average adult consumption for each of those years, with the revised 2011 figure expected to be 11.8 litres per adult.”

He said that in international terms, average consumption increased in several OECD countries but declined in Ireland over the period.

Fiona Ryan, director of the charity Alcohol Action Ireland, said the figure for alcohol consumption quoted in the industry-sponsored report was correct.

She said, however, the figure showing the first big decline in average consumption from 2003 to 2006 coincided with an increase in excise on alcohol products.

“This again establishes the link between pricing and consumption . . . Basically, we are drinking twice as much as we did in the 1960s. If we were all drinking to our maximum low-risk limits we would be drinking nine litres [of pure alcohol] per capita. At the moment we are drinking close to 12 litres a year.”

The Government will publish the National Substance Misuse Strategy shortly. It will recommend a ban on all alcohol sponsorship of sporting and large outdoor events, a ban on all outdoor advertising of alcohol, an increase in the excise duties on some alcohol products and the introduction of a minimum price per gram of alcohol.

A draft copy of the report, seen by The Irish Times, also recommends the introduction of a “social responsibility” levy on the drinks industry which could be used to help fund sporting events and a reduction in the weekly “safe” number of units of alcohol for women from 18 to 11, and for men from 21 units to 17.