Alcohol and advertising

 

Sir, – Dr Bobby Smyth (June 25th) argues that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill should be implemented immediately to tackle societal ills, including child abuse, rape, suicide and cancer. This is a simplistic assessment of complex and multi-faceted problems; unfortunately there is no evidence to suggest that measures contained in the Bill will tackle, never mind solve, any of them.

Dr Smyth references a recent study published in the British Medical Journal to support his argument. However, the study is far from conclusive, where the article itself states at the outset that “few studies have examined the effects of moderate drinking on the brain – and results are inconsistent”. This is just one more study and the authors point out that “this is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect” and “some limitations could have introduced bias”.

The truth is alcohol consumption in Ireland has declined by 25 per cent since 2005, according to the World Health Organisation. The same report shows that Ireland has now fallen from ninth to 18th position out of the list of 28 countries.

Mirroring this decline, the latest ESPAD (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs) report, published in 2016, showed not only a significant decline in underage use, but that Ireland had gone from a ranking of eight to 28th out of 33 countries analysed over the course of the study.

Dr Smyth makes no reference to the unintended consequences of the Bill, which will threaten the livelihoods of 204,000 people employed by the sector across the regional and rural economy and the 12,000 farm families that the industry supports.

The Bill contains a series of punitive measures that would make Ireland among the most restricted countries in the world in terms of marketing freedoms for alcoholic products.

The proposed content restrictions would make it illegal for an advertisement to show an image of one or more people (whether they are consuming alcohol or not), a description of the taste of the product, an image of a public house, restaurant or off-licence or any notion of conviviality. In effect, it would ban the iconic Guinness Christmas advert.

Ireland already has the strictest placement and advertising content codes of most global markets. This is applied by the industry across all domestic and “opt out” television channels, alongside digital platforms.

The Bill also imposes a 9pm watershed ensuring that much-needed revenues will simply flow to non-domestic digital and online providers, which is where 60 per cent of young people consume content.

Our members want to work with Government to find a more workable solution which would mean putting the existing codes on a statutory footing, with significant penalties for breaches.

This could be implemented within a much shorter timeframe, with a regulatory authority already in place to police the system. – Yours, etc,

PATRICIA CALLAN,

Director,

Alcohol Beverage

Federation of Ireland,

Lower Baggot Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Dr Bobby Smyth (June 26th) outlines the litany of serious negative consequences that alcohol has on society and on individuals, and promotes the Public Health Alcohol Bill. I believe that knowing what we now know about the health impacts of even moderate consumption of alcohol, we need to go much further than this legislation, which in effect is just window dressing.

It is time to impose a social levy on the drinks industry. This levy should be the size of the current marketing spend by the industry, which is approximately 0.7 per cent of turnover. Then ban all alcohol marketing, and use the monies accrued by the social levy to promote healthy living and to market alternatives to alcohol, such as the subsidisation of the provision of one non-alcohol social venue for every three alcohol outlets.

We should be liberal enough to legalise the drug alcohol, but mature enough to ensure we do not push it on our young people and to offer viable social alternatives to this addictive drug. – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS LENNON,

Salthill,

Galway.