Alcohol and minimum-unit pricing

 

Sir, – It is a matter of deep regret that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has decided to defer the introduction of minimum-unit pricing for alcohol by 18 months. Easy availability of cheap alcohol costs lives. In addition, Covid-19 has been worsened for many women, children, families and communities because of the easy access to cheap alcohol during the pandemic while other social outlets are under lockdown.

Minimum-unit pricing for alcohol was adopted as policy by the Department of Health in 2012, following a three-year process chaired by the current chief medical officer, examining all the evidence of what would be effective in lessening alcohol-related harm. As a follow-on, the department introduced the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in 2015, when the current Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was minister for health. In 2018, the Bill was voted into law as the Public Health (Alcohol) Act by, having been brought through both Houses of the Oireachtas by then-minister for health Simon Harris. Minimum-unit pricing is the most important component of Ireland’s public-health alcohol policy. It will save lives.

We read this week from Limerick of the latest in a very long list of serious Covid-19 breaches fuelled by alcohol, two days after Mr Donnelly’s ill-judged announcement.

This matter is too big for one department.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has a record of standing up to vested interests on this issue. It is time for him to show the same resolve and bring this very effective and long-debated measure into immediate effect. – Yours, etc,

JOE BARRY,

Adjunct Professor

of Population Health,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2,

Institute of

Population Health,

Tallaght Cross, Dublin 24.