Health and the price of alcohol

 

Sir, – The principal purpose of introducing the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is to reduce Ireland’s overall consumption of alcohol and so lessening the impact of alcohol-related harms across all strands of our society. Recent correspondents fail to recognise that Ireland continues to have a harmful relationship with alcohol. The Bill represents a historic opportunity to begin a process of de-normalising that relationship with alcohol that lays claim to three lives every single day.

An important provision within the Bill is the proposed introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) per gram of alcohol. This will ensure that cheap, strong alcohol, currently ubiquitously available throughout our supermarkets, convenience stores and small shops, cannot be sold at very cheap prices. Harmful and hazardous drinkers consume a disproportionate amount of cheap alcohol, and there is strong evidence to demonstrate that their level of consumption falls as price rises. It would also have a greater impact on discouraging children and young people from drinking, as they are price sensitive.

The primary examples where MUP has been adopted, the Canadian states of Saskatchewan and British Columbia, demonstrate the clear effectiveness of the policy measure. Additionally, after five years of spurious and vexatious delay, Scotland is now set to implement MUP in 2018, with Wales likely to adopt similar measures too.

A simple reality remains that Ireland drinks too much and if we are to make any progress on a range of public health ambitions that seek to protect all our citizens, we must strive to ensure that less alcohol is sold, and accordingly, less alcohol is consumed. And that is why this Bill is on the floor of Leinster House. – Yours, etc,

EUNAN McKINNEY,

Head of Communications

and Advocacy,

Alcohol Action Ireland,

Coleraine House,

Coleraine Street, Dublin 7.