Strategies to combat alcohol abuse

 

Sir, – In calling for support for his Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, Minister for Health Simon Harris suggested that “Trojan horse” arguments were being used to obstruct effective legislation aimed at tackling Ireland’s serious alcohol problems (“Law on minimum alcohol pricing may pass in next session”, August 29th).

A Scottish study on alcohol abuse published two years ago showed that over 13,000 deaths, which occurred in Scotland between 2002 and 2011, were directly caused by bad alcohol drinking habits.

What was particularly shocking about that report was the statistical correlation between the number of drinking licences issued by local authorities in an area and the significantly increased number of alcohol-related deaths within those associated catchment areas. That study demonstrated that whereas hospital admission rates for alcohol-related illness were constant in neighbourhoods with fewer than six off-licences and nine pubs within a 10-minute walk, the admission statistics more than tripled when there was an increase in the number of outlets selling alcohol. In particular the study highlighted that off-licences were a leading contributor to alcohol abuse and illness, as was the practice of shopping outlets using alcohol as a loss-leader in discounting competition among stores. It will come as no surprise that the highest number of deaths were in the poorest communities.

I have not seen a similar study published in Ireland, but given the very close social and cultural connections between Scotland and Ireland, it would be highly likely that similar patterns and statistics apply here. In supporting Mr Harris’s alcohol legislation Bill, I hope that the Minister also impresses upon his county council colleagues that local planning authorities should be aware of the links between numbers of licensed alcohol retail outlets and alcoholism, and therefore ensure more coherent health related planning strategies to combat our epidemic of alcohol abuse. – Yours, etc,

Dr VINCENT KENNY,

Knocklyon, Dublin 16.