Gastroenterologists call for action on cheap alcohol

Belfast conference hears warnings of worsening drink-related health crisis

British and Irish gastroenterologists have warned of a worsening alcohol-related crisis in healthcare and said they wanted to see better investment in hospital and community based treatment services. Photograph: David Jones/PA Wire

British and Irish gastroenterologists have warned of a worsening alcohol-related crisis in healthcare and said they wanted to see better investment in hospital and community based treatment services. Photograph: David Jones/PA Wire

Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 09:48

The Irish Society of Gastroenterology has called on the Government to introduce a 1 per cent levy on alcohol advertising and sponsorship expenditure.

The society is taking part in an all-island gastroenterology conference in Belfast where British and Irish Governments have also been urgent to take action against cheap drink.

It said the money raised from the levy could be used to fund an Institute of Alcohol Studies, which could conduct research into alcohol harm reduction.

“Currently there is no funding dedicated to improving treatment of serious alcohol-related diseases,” the society’s president Prof Aideen McCormick said. “We feel it appropriate that the industry which profits from alcohol consumption should fund research into harm reduction.”

British and Irish gastroenterologists warned of a worsening alcohol-related crisis in healthcare and said they wanted to see better investment in hospital and community based treatment services.

Cheap drink in supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations has contributed to the increase of alcohol-related diseases in Ireland and Britain, the society said, adding that failure to act on alcohol pricing will cause untold damage and costs to health and healthcare going forward.

However an alcohol manufacturer and suppliers’ association said “there is no proven link between alcohol consumption and marketing and sponsorship”.

Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland director Kathryn D'Arcy said all sections of society, including Government and industry, needed to work together to tackle alcohol misuse.

“Driving a culture change where it is no longer acceptable to drink to excess and misuse alcohol can only come about when there is a true partnership approach.

“Simply introducing another tax on an industry who employ over 60,000 people, pays over €2 billion in taxes and proudly exports over €1 billion worth of brands all over the world, in order to fund another quango will not achieve this.”