Bill to ban alcohol adverts near schools, on public transport

Minmum price of wine expected to be set at €7.60 in efforts to curb cheap drink products

Minimum price of a bottle of wine is expected to be set at about €7.60 under new law. File photograph: Thinkstock

Minimum price of a bottle of wine is expected to be set at about €7.60 under new law. File photograph: Thinkstock

 

Alcohol advertising is to be banned near schools, playgrounds and public transport under long-awaited drinks legislation to be published today.

Advertisements for alcohol products will be restricted to the provision of specific information about a product only, and will be prohibited from glamorising alcohol or making it appealing to children, under the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to be published by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

Under the new laws, the minimum price of a bottle of wine is expected to be set at about €7.60.

Advertising, marketing and sponsorship restrictions will be subject to prosecutions under the criminal justice system for the first time.

Up to now, restrictions on the marketing and advertising of drink have been largely subject to voluntary codes.

Other measures in the Bill will include a ban on on-pitch advertisements for drink in sports games; the introduction of minimum unit pricing to curb the availability of cheap alcohol; and the provision of calorie and alcohol content information on products.

Harmful effects

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland code will include a broadcasting watershed of 9pm for alcohol-related advertisements.

The Broadcasting Act 2009 will be amended to ensure the Minister is consulted on all health-related aspects of the code, with alcohol being included in the list of products of public concern for the general health interests of children.

The Bill also requires advertisements to include warnings about the harmful effects of alcohol consumption in general and during pregnancy.

Luas stops

Among the places where a blanket ban on advertising will apply are schools and early-years services; local authority playgrounds; bus and train stations; and bus and Luas stops.

The Government has been promising a package of legislation to tackle alcohol abuse since 2011 but the measure was delayed for some years by disagreements between ministers over curbs to sports sponsorship by drinks companies.

An outright ban on sports sponsorship was originally planned but this was dropped in the face of opposition. It is now planned to review this issue in three years.

Mr Varadkar promised to make the legislation a top priority after he moved to health last year but drafting was further delayed by the complexity of the measures proposed.

As part of Ireland’s European obligations, the Bill will be notified to the EU, after publication, for its observations.

The cumulative delays mean the Bill will not pass through the Oireachtas in the lifetime of the current Government.

Opposition

The legislation is likely to face considerable opposition from the drinks industry, as well as sporting, cultural and media groups which are highly reliant on alcohol advertising.

It could also face legal obstacles in the Irish and European courts, particularly in relation to minimum pricing.

Proposals by the Scottish government for minimum unit pricing for alcohol received a setback last September when a preliminary ruling by the European Court of Justice found they could be discriminatory and could also breach free trade rules.