Drinks promotions to be restricted under new legislation

Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will be debated in the Seanad next week

A proposed amendment to the legislation suggests that small shops be given the option of keeping alcohol products in view but confined to a maximum of two storage units. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

A proposed amendment to the legislation suggests that small shops be given the option of keeping alcohol products in view but confined to a maximum of two storage units. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

 

Drinks promotions aimed at students and others offering two alcohol products for the price of one are to be restricted under new legislation being prepared by the Government.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to be given the authority to draft regulations to prohibit or curb promotions, which he believes encourage irresponsible drinking behaviour.

The proposals are contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which is to be debated in the Seanad next week.

The legislation was stalled in the Oireachtas last year due to a number of concerns raised by Fine Gael TDs and Senators, in particular about the requirement on retailers to hide alcohol from display.

In an amendment proposed by Mr Harris, small shops will now be given the option of keeping alcohol products in view but the Bill will insist that it must be confined to a maximum of two storage units.

The two units must be placed beside each other and cannot contain anything other than alcohol products.

All other retailers must segregate alcohol to a separate area in the shop and keep it in a closed storage unit. The product cannot be visible to the customer and must remain closed when not in use, the legislation says.

Amendment

These proposals caused significant concern among Fine Gael members, who insisted it would place a significant financial burden on small shop owners.

However, it is understood the amendment now proposed by the Minister has received support from members of his party.

Mr Harris said this was a landmark piece of legislation that required the support of all political parties.

“As a country, we have already shown that public health legislation in the area of tobacco can work, now let’s do the same for alcohol,” the Minister told The Irish Times. “Legitimate business concerns in relation to small shops, which have been raised by Senators, I will seek to address through an amendment. I am appealing for cross-party support for this very important legislation.”

The Bill will also clarify issues around sponsorship of major events by drinks companies.

In particular, the Bill will stress that the alcohol industry will not be permitted to sponsor events where the majority of participants or competitors are children or where it involves driving or motor vehicles.

The legislation will also allow for the introduction of minimum unit pricing and for the introduction of health warnings on all alcohol products.

The advertising of alcohol products will be prohibited within 200m of the perimeter of schools, crèches and local authority playgrounds.

Advertising on public transport vehicles and at public transport stops and stations will also be prohibited.

Alcohol abuse continues to be a significant problem in Ireland. The Health Research Board (HRB) has said that per capita alcohol consumption in 2015 in the State was equal to 41 litres of vodka, 116 bottles of wine or 445 pints of beer per person aged over 15.