Ban on drink firms sponsoring sport urged by report


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 are among the recommendations in the forthcoming National Substance Misuse Strategy, 2009 -2016.

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.

It calls for measures to encourage less drinking at home and a greater proportion of overall drinking in pubs.

The strategy is the result of two years’ work by the national substance misuse steering group chaired by the Department of Health, with input from the drinks industry as well as health, justice and social interests. Its publication has been delayed several times since December amid reports that the drinks industry has refused to sign off on elements.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said yesterday: “It will be published in the near future.” While acknowledging the positive role of the alcohol industry in the Irish economy – it provided 50,000 whole-time jobs in 2008 – the strategy also notes in 2008 alcohol was responsible for 88 deaths per month, contributed to half of all suicides and was associated with 2,000 beds being occupied in acute hospitals every night.

“The burden of health harms and the social consequences of harmful use of alcohol demanded the implementation of further measures to protect and preserve public health . . . The central aim is to reduce the amount of alcohol we drink.”

Price is a key issue in consumption. “Excise duties on higher alcohol-content products should be maintained at a higher rate than those on lower alcohol products.” Duties should be related to alcohol content on all drinks, so low alcohol beers for example should have lower duties than full strength beers.

“To tackle the very low cost at which alcohol is sold in the off-trade sector (particularly in supermarkets) a minimum pricing regime should be introduced.”

It calls for the commencement of a number of subsections of the 2008 Intoxicating Liquor Act.

Commencement of section 16.1 (b) and (c) would put an end to two-for-one offers, or savings from buying multiple bottles or cans of drink.

Section 16.1 could also put an end to cheap drinks offers in pubs.

The HSE should be given the right to object to the renewal of off-licences and the annual charge for off-trade licences should be increased. On-trade pubs make a greater social and economic contribution, and exercise greater control on alcohol consumption.

“Legislation . . . should provide for a 9pm watershed for alcohol advertising on television and radio; alcohol advertising in cinemas to be only associated with films classified over 18s; prohibiting all outdoor advertising of alcohol, and, all advertising in print media to be subject to strict codes enshrined in legislation.”

* Dr John Fingleton, head of the British Office of Fair Trading and former chief executive of the Irish Competition Authority, criticised proposed minimum prices for alcohol at an economic conference in Croke Park yesterday. Such price floors would merely make more profits for retailers, he said. If public policy was to cut alcohol consumption, the best way to achieve this was higher taxation.

In numbers

11.9 litres

The amount the average Irish adult drank in litres of pure alcohol in 2010, equivalent to 482 pints of lager, 125 bottles of wine or 45 bottles of vodka.


More than half have been drunk and one in five drinks weekly.


The number of deaths where alcohol was responsible per month in 2008 – not including deaths due to alcohol in people who were not alcohol dependent.


Alcohol-related illness or injury accounts for 2,000 hospital beds being occupied every night.


In 2008 the alcohol industry provided 50,000 whole-time equivalent jobs. Almost 90 per cent of jobs were in on-trade outlets, 5 per cent in off-trade and some 7 per sent in manufacturing.

Main recommendations

* Increase the price of alcohol using high excise duties and minimum pricing per gram of alcohol

* Introduce a “social responsibility” levy on the drinks industry

* End cheap alcohol promotions in pubs and price incentives to buy multiple containers of drink in shops

* Enforce regulations to separate sale and display of alcohol from grocery items

* Prohibit all outdoor advertising of alcohol

* Ban alcohol sponsorship of all sporting and large music, comedy or theatre events

* Label all alcohol products with number of grams of alcohol, calorific content and health warnings

* Lower safe weekly guidelines for consumption of alcohol to 11 units for women and 17 for men

* Increase number of youth cafes and encourage late-night and weekend opening

* Develop early intervention guidelines for alcohol and substance use across health and social care sectors.

* Strengthen foetal alcohol spectrum disorder surveillance in maternity services.

* Strengthen supports and services to children and families affected by a problem drinker

* Expand alcohol treatment and rehabilitation services in prisons