The cost of alcohol in Irish off-licences has fallen to such a level that women can now hit their weekly alcohol consumption limit by spending under €5, while the ceiling for men can be hit for less than €7.50, according to a new report.
In its annual market review and pricing survey released on Thursday, Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) also found there was little difference between the alcohol prices found in urban and rural areas and in big supermarkets and small off-licences.
It said men were able to reach the guideline weekly consumption limit by spending €7.48, with the cost for women put at €4.84.
Cider was found to be the cheapest strong alcohol on the market, with a standard drink selling in off-licences for as little as 44 cent, followed by beer, wine and a range of spirits.
According to HSE low-risk weekly guidelines on consumption, men should drink no more than 17 standard drinks – with one standard drink being a small glass of wine or beer – while it is recommended that women consume no more than 11 such drinks.
The AAI report said its research demonstrated “the remarkable affordability of alcohol to everyday shoppers” and it called for the urgent commencement of legislation aimed at imposing minimum prices on alcohol.
The survey also highlighted what the AAI said was “the sophisticated retailing model deployed nationwide – urban, regional and rural – by the alcohol industry, with prices in convenience shops in rural towns in line with prices in big supermarkets in urban centres”.
AAI spokesman Eunan McKinney said the survey "increasingly highlights that alcohol is becoming more affordable in Ireland". He said this was despite the alcohol industry repeating claims about "the seemingly 'prohibitive' cost of alcohol in Ireland and [the] demand [for] Government support to reduce excise duties".
He said that given “the remarkable, universal affordability of alcohol in Ireland, any reduction in the cost would be utterly destructive of public health objectives and aims to reduce our excessive consumption”.
There is a “clear and urgent need for the Government and the Minister for Health to immediately commence the minimum unit pricing of alcohol products, which passed into law last October but lies stuck in political inertia”, he said.
He concluded by saying the availability of such cheap, strong alcohol was “killing our people.
“It is simply incredible that economic interest would continue to be advanced ahead of a public health measure that would benefit the wellbeing of our youth and those at high risk because of alcohol.”