Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

 

Sir – Prof Frank Murray argues that the drinks industry is seeking to obstruct the passage of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill with relentless lobbying (September 28th).

This is incorrect. For many years, the drinks industry has openly supported the introduction of legislation to tackle alcohol misuse and the consumption of alcohol by young people.

However, the industry has and will continue to express concerns that certain proposals included in the Bill will have negative implications on the 200,000 jobs it supports. There is also a huge question over whether some of these proposals will actually work.

As the primary industry that this legislation will impact, it perfectly legitimate to seek improvements to proposed legislation, to ensure that it is workable and evidence-based, rather than ineffective and harmful.

This is simply part of the democratic process. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that national health policies, strategies, and plans are more likely to get implemented effectively if their development and negotiation is inclusive of all stakeholders in and beyond the health sector. This includes the private sector and businesses.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also tells us that, in Ireland, consumption has declined by 25 per cent since 2005.

Additionally, Prof Murray says that initiatives introduced must be evidence-based. We would agree. However, one only has to look at the draconian measures proposed with regard to advertising to see that some are not backed by evidence.

The advertising measures would essentially ban images of people, animals, scenic shots of Ireland and scenes of conviviality, for example people in Irish pubs.

In essence, the Guinness Christmas ad will be banned. The restrictions will cost Irish media €20 million in lost advertising revenue per annum and will simply shift this revenue away from domestic Irish media, towards international, non-Irish regulated media organisations that broadcast here. Furthermore, these measures are being proposed despite the fact that Ireland has some of the strictest rules for marketing alcohol products in the world, which could be placed on a statutory footing, with significant penalties for any breaches.

When we enact this legislation, we must strike a balance between supporting a thriving Irish industry and achieving public health objectives that are evidence-based.

Yours, etc.

PATRICIA CALLAN,

Director,

Alcohol Beverage

Federation of Ireland,

Lower Baggot Street,

Dublin 2.