Cutting alcohol consumption: details of new Bill

Penalties, including fines and prison, modelled on tobacco and sunbed legislation

Leo Varadkar described the range of measures as the most far-reaching yet to curb the misuse of alcohol

Leo Varadkar described the range of measures as the most far-reaching yet to curb the misuse of alcohol

 

Advertising alcoholic drinks in a way intended to appeal to children will be banned as part of the Government’s new legislation designed to reduce consumption.

Further details have been published of the legislation which will also pave the way for the restrictions on the sale of cheap drinks announced by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar on Tuesday.

The exact minimum price to be introduced for alcohol has not been decided but figures of between 90 cents and €1.10 per gram of alcohol have been mentioned.

Under the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, health labelling on all alcoholic drinks, containers and promotional material will include warnings and advice aimed at pregnant women and others.

The amount of pure alcohol, measured in grams, and the calorie count contained in each measure or container will have to be displayed on labels.

Marketing and advertising alcohol on television and radio will be limited to evening hours from 2016, while cinemas will only be able to show alcohol advertisements ahead of films classified as suitable for over-18s. Alcohol-related displays in outdoor media will be restricted from 2018.

Penalties for offences under the Bill, including fines and prison terms, will be modelled on recent legislation relating to tobacco and sunbeds.

Alcohol products must be displayed separately from other products to “make them less visible to children”, according to the Bill.

Mr Varadkar described the range of measures as the most far-reaching yet to curb the misuse of alcohol.

Responding to criticisms from Independent TD Róisín Shortall, who said the measures did not go far enough, Mr Varadkar said it was the first time the Government was dealing with problem drinking through public-health legislation rather than through licensing and justice legislation.

“We’ve had four years of talking about this, including under minister Shortall’s remit, and nothing was actually done,” he said.

“With only one year left in Government I decided what we should do is press ahead with the most effective measures and do them now, implement them, get a result and then it is agreed we’ll review progress in a few years time.”

He added: “I have been listening to the various criticisms. It’s a combination of ‘you’re going too far’ from some people . . . and ‘you’re not going far enough’ (from others). That’s the nature of [introducing] any package of measures.”

Ms Shortall said on RTÉ radio she was “disappointed” Mr Varadkar had decided to stick with an existing code of practice in relation to sponsorship, which she said had been drawn up by the drinks industry itself.

“Politicians have traditionally been very slow to tackle this issue,” she said. “The alcohol industry is very powerful in this country and has very good access to a lot of senior politicians.”

Mr Varadkar said he hoped the new legislation would be enacted by the end of the year.