Ban on selling alcohol in shops urged

 

A BAN on the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and garages should be considered by Government, a new report on alcohol and drugs has said.

The Report on the Misuse of Alcohol and Other Drugs, from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, recommended an outright ban should be considered “in the longer term” in such outlets.

The committee’s chairman, Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, said members believed the proliferation of outlets for alcohol had led to an increase in consumption.

“Nobody wants to see people’s livelihoods being diminished or being damaged, but there comes a time when you have to say what is in the best interest of the public and public health,” he said.

Produced after consultation with stakeholders and other interested bodies, the report made 13 recommendations.

These included that the voluntary code of practice in the retail industry, which stipulates where alcohol is located in a store, should be abolished and replaced with statutory codes to ensure alcohol is kept in a separate area to other goods. It also recommended a ban on home deliveries of alcohol, a ban on all retail advertising on discounted alcohol, the introduction of a 9pm watershed for alcohol advertising on TV and a ban on advertising of alcohol on social networking websites.

And it said the Government should end VAT refunds on alcohol sold below cost.

The importation of cannabis seeds should be criminalised, the report said, and stricter controls on the importation and prescribing of benzodiazepines, such as Valium, should be introduced.

The report recommended the Government should consider new educational initiatives to highlight the implications of alcohol and drug misuse to “influence the prevailing cultural attitudes”.

And it said the medical card should cover rehabilitation treatment for alcohol addiction.

Not all of the committee agreed with the Government decision to introduce a minimum sale price for alcohol, the report said. A minority supported an increase in taxes on alcohol instead.

The report said alcohol consumption in Ireland had risen from almost five litres per person a year in 1960 to 11.3 litres in 2009 and some 2,000 hospital beds were occupied every day due to alcohol-related illness.

Describing alcohol as the “national drug”, Mr Buttimer said the aim of the report was to highlight the prevalence of alcohol and other drugs in society.

“The report hopes to bring about a change in attitudes towards the misuse of alcohol by illustrating the huge personal and economic costs caused by hazardous drinking,” he said.

Fiona Ryan, director of Alcohol Action Ireland, welcomed the report. She said the recommendations showed “real leadership” and went to the heart of the problems by focusing on pricing, availability and marketing.

Evelyn Jones, chairwoman of the National Off-licence Association, also welcomed the report. She said legislation was already in place to enforce codes around separating alcohol from other goods in-store, but had not been enacted.

Misuse of alcohol and other drugs recommendations:

* Long-term outright ban on the sale of alcohol in outlets including supermarkets and garages.

* Ban on the presentation and sale of alcohol alongside groceries.

* Ban on home deliveries of alcohol, advertising on discounted alcohol and advertising of alcohol on social networking sites.

* The introduction of a 9pm watershed for alcohol advertising on TV.

*Criminalisation of importation of cannabis seeds.

* Stricter controls on benzodiazepines such as Valium.