Alcohol abuse costs Irish economy €2.3bn a year, Dáil hears

Fianna Fáil TD John Brassil says drinks should carry general health warning labels

Kerry TD John Brassil suggested that the drinks industry should have to pay for HSE and Government advertising showing the harmful effects of alcohol. File photograph: Johnny Green/PA Wire

Kerry TD John Brassil suggested that the drinks industry should have to pay for HSE and Government advertising showing the harmful effects of alcohol. File photograph: Johnny Green/PA Wire

 

A Fianna Fáil TD has asked the Government to consider introducing general health warning labels on alcohol products rather than specifically highlighting cancer because it is linked to so many other diseases.

Kerry TD John Brassil, a pharmacist, was speaking during the ongoing Dáil debate on the controversial Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which attempts to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland.

Last year, the Central Statistics Office found Irish people aged 18-24 had the highest rates of binge drinking in the EU.

Mr Brassil noted the provision to state on product labels that alcohol can cause cancer. “It may cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and other health problems.”

He asked Minister for Health Simon Harris “should we consider a label that states ‘alcohol seriously damages your health’ as opposed to specifying a disease such as cancer”.

Mr Brassil also suggested that the drinks industry should have to pay for HSE and Government advertising showing the harmful effects of alcohol.

Advertising might be a better way to fight back against the drinks industry, he suggested. The Fianna Fáil TD pointed to the intense lobbying by the drinks industry for changes to the Bill.

He said: “We have to consider what the industry has done in recent years such as introducing alcopops which have a high alcohol content and because they are very sweet and east to drink, can be consumed in large quantities, leading to serious health issues.”

His party colleague Seán Haughey said the cost to the Irish economy of the alcohol problem is estimated at €2.3 billion annually. He said he detected a small change in attitudes to excessive consumption but believed a lot more work needed to be done.

“We all know the problems associated with excessive use of alcohol – absenteeism, a strain on our health services, problems relating to crime, drink-driving, assaults, domestic violence, broken families, accidents, anxiety and depression, particularly among young people. Youth suicide is a particular problem,” the Dublin Bay North TD said.

‘Shocking abuse’

Fianna Fáil Roscommon-Galway TD Eugene Murphy said he did not drink but he did go to pubs, clubs and hotels and at times witnessed “the shocking abuse of alcohol”. He asked if other TDs had ever seen “the family of a young lad or lassie who has excess alcohol in their system and it is an issue of life or death, called to the hospital. The worry and distress caused to those people is shocking.”

Independents 4 Change TD Tommy Broughan pointed to World Health Organisation statistics that alcohol is a factor in more than 200 conditions, diseases and injuries including heart disease and cancer.

He said that “some 1,050 deaths a year or 88 a month are due to alcohol. One-quarter of the deaths of young men aged between 15 and 19 are due to alcohol. It is also an element in half of suicides and approximately 30 per cent of incidents of self-harm.”

Mr Broughan also pointed to statistics from the Road Safety Authority that showed alcohol was a factor in 40 per cent of fatal road traffic incidents. He believed it was an underestimation because “testing for alcohol is not always carried out at the scenes of collisions”.