Alcohol Bill to undermine Rugby World Cup bid - drinks lobby

Alcohol Action Ireland praises Bill as key step to reducing alcohol-related harm in country

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland said the Bill could “lay the foundations for a new relationship with alcohol in Ireland”, and specified that minimum unit pricing will increase the cost of affected products in off-licences and supermarkets by about €1.20 per month for “low-risk” drinkers. File photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland said the Bill could “lay the foundations for a new relationship with alcohol in Ireland”, and specified that minimum unit pricing will increase the cost of affected products in off-licences and supermarkets by about €1.20 per month for “low-risk” drinkers. File photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

 

The Government’s Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has been met with broad acclaim by campaign groups, but drinks industry representatives say it will serve to undermine Ireland’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.

The Bill, published by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, contains new measures such as introducing minimum pricing for alcohol, banning alcohol advertising near schools and on public transport and creating a broadcast watershed of 9pm before which alcohol advertisements will not be permitted.

Alcohol Action Ireland praised the Bill as a “landmark piece of legislation”, and said the measures are an important first step to reducing alcohol-related harm in Ireland.

“Most importantly, this legislation can save lives. The three key evidence-based areas required for changing a harmful drinking culture - alcohol pricing, marketing and availability - are represented in the legislation, which is very encouraging,” said Conor Cullen, its head of advocacy.

Disappointment expressed

Alcohol Action did, however, express disappointment at the absence of proposals to remove alcohol advertising from sport entirely, and said the Bill “does not fully address” the influence of digital alcohol marketing on children and young people.

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland said the Bill could “lay the foundations for a new relationship with alcohol in Ireland”, and specified that minimum unit pricing will increase the cost of affected products in off-licences and supermarkets by about €1.20 per month for “low-risk” drinkers.

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland also welcomed the proposals, and called for a speedy implementation of minimum unit pricing requirements.

Responding to proposals, the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) said aspects of the Bill relating to advertising are “draconian” and that sports funding would be “hugely diminished” as a result.

‘Nanny-state gone mad’

ABFI director Ross MacMathúna accused the Government of exhibiting certain tendencies of a “nanny-state gone mad”, and said shoppers would be driven across the Border in search of cheaper drink.

“The whole population should not be punished because a small minority abuse a product, and the unintended consequences of this Bill will result in job losses and no decrease in alcohol misuse,” he said.

Industry advocates said reduced investment in sports by drinks companies would make Ireland a less enticing prospect to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which the Government and IRFU are currently seeking to secure for the country.

Business and employers’ group Ibec was critical of the Bill, saying it “fails to provide effective measures” to tackle alcohol misuse and that it will penalise responsible consumers if enacted.