Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

 

Sir, – The Irish Heart Foundation strongly supports the early implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

The human face of alcohol related harm in the area of cardiovascular disease is very real: it is the heart attack victim or the stroke patient. In our health service, it is the 1,500 beds that are occupied by patients with alcohol-related problems. Given that 10,000 people die each year from cardiovascular disease (CVD), and that CVD accounts for 31 per cent of all deaths and 20 per cent of premature deaths (under age 65), we believe that all actions that can be taken to reduce CVD should be taken.

We welcome that this is the first time that the Government will legislate for alcohol as a public health issue. At the same time, we recognise the apprehension some Oireachtas members may feel about the Bill – either in its totality, or certain sections of it.

However, when we talk about the need to reduce waiting lists, take people off trollies in overcrowded emergency departments and do more for the management of chronic disease, we cannot overlook important measures to deal with prevention of alcohol-related harm.

Alcohol misuse must be treated as a serious public health problem. The Bill tackles four important factors that fuel high-risk consumption of alcohol: price, marketing, labelling and structural separation. Its strength lies in its holistic and overarching approach to reducing alcohol consumption, recognising that the normalisation of alcohol in everyday life in recent years has opened the floodgates for chronic disease into the future.

This Bill is about prevention and protection. We are urging Oireachtas members, at this critical impasse, not to lose sight of the critical importance of the Bill. People cannot continue to question under pressure services or express concern about the growing burden of disease if they then choose to oppose vital public health legislation. Ireland led the way in pioneering tobacco legislation, now it is time to do the same with this Bill. – Yours, etc,

Dr KATHLEEN McGARRY,

President,

TIM COLLINS,

Chief Executive,

Irish Heart Foundation,

Ringsend Road, Dublin 4.