Alcohol and minimum unit pricing

 

Sir, – Sean Barrett (November 21st) criticises the proposed introduction of minimum unit pricing in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, claiming that the tax system is a more effective way to curtail alcohol consumption. As Ireland already has the second highest excise tax on alcohol overall across the European Union, we believe that the tax system is not the best way to address alcohol misuse.

We agree, however, that minimum unit pricing is not the best way to tackle the sale of cheap alcohol and are in favour of a ban on below-cost selling.

There are real concerns that the introduction of minimum unit pricing in the Republic would intensify cross-Border shopping, thus jeopardising Border economies.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the sterling has depreciated significantly since the Brexit vote.

With Minister for Health Simon Harris stating that he wants to ensure that any Government decision about minimum unit pricing is done alongside Northern Ireland, the introduction of a ban on below-cost selling could address the sale of cheap alcohol much quicker. This would ensure alcohol is not sold as a loss leader and would end the deep discounting that distorts the market.

In claiming that the drinks industry is set to profit from the introduction of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, however, Mr Barrett is brushing over the hugely damaging impact that other measures in the alcohol Bill will have on the sector.

The alcohol Bill will make Ireland one of the most restrictive countries in the world for marketing alcohol products. All existing alcohol advertisements will be banned under the new legislation, which will see all forms of a storyline in ads prohibited.

This will be extremely damaging for growth and innovation in the sector, as businesses both large and small will find it more difficult to market products to consumers and bring new ones to the market. – Yours, etc,

PATRICIA CALLAN,

Director,

Alcohol Beverage

Federation of Ireland,

Ibec,

Lower Baggot Street,

Dublin 2.