The price of alcohol

Sir, – In recent days there has been much criticism of a public health measure on the basis of economic theory, unintended consequences and stereotyping of the drinking patterns of certain socio-economic groups.

The elephant in all our rooms, which few of your fiscal correspondents seem overly concerned about, is the more than €3.6 billion alcohol harm costs our society annually.

Or indeed the hindrance that alcohol-related harm has on our GDP, assessed by the OECD in 2021 at minus 1.88 per cent.

This cost cannot be placed solely on the shoulders of those who have fallen victim to an addictive substance but is shared by half of a drinking population, which data consistently shows drink too much, too often.


The Public Health Alcohol Act addresses the principal drivers of consumption: price, promotion, availability and accurate information on risk, much as public health policy has successfully done with tobacco over a generation, and as advised by the World Health Organisation, and recommended by the OECD.

Often in any debate about tackling harmful alcohol use, a stereotypical view tends to focus problem drinking on the needs of the poor.

However, when data on consumption is explored, one finds that the majority of our drinking, as a nation, is done by those in the middle quintiles of affluence.

While those who are the least affluent, and suffer the greatest health inequalities, have the highest proportion of non-drinkers.

Many seem particularly concerned by the price of beer and wine, but in practice, the average Sean or Joan, who have a low-risk engagement with alcohol, fewer than 17 or 11 standard drinks per week, are not the consumers of cheap, strong alcohol that minimum pricing targets.

These ordinary drinkers will see little change to their annual alcohol spend, as the Sheffield Alcohol research study appraisal of minimum unit pricing from 2014 highlights.

In an economy where the alcohol industry spends in excess of €100 million annually on media and marketing support for its fantastical brand propositions, there will be commercial consequences to introducing statutory alcohol controls; less alcohol will be sold.

As a society, public health alcohol policy now provides us with a generational opportunity to seriously tackle the terrible, and largely preventable, social and economic burden of alcohol-related harm. – Yours, etc,



Head of Communications

and Advocacy,

Alcohol Action Ireland,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – The introduction of minimum unit pricing this week is symptomatic of the detachment between this Government and ordinary people.

Newcastle University’s report, published in The Lancet, into the effects of minimum unit pricing in Scotland noted that “the lowest income households did not seem to reduce the amount of alcohol they purchased, and their expenditure on alcohol increased”.

Therefore, we have designed a system of wealth redistribution from the poorest and most vulnerable in society to large retailers, without a red cent in additional funding going towards support services.

Moreover, this measure has outraged the two cohorts of voters where this Government is least popular: young people and low-income earners.

It confirms what they already suspect.

If the breeding ground of policymaking continues like this, where a concoction of quangos, interest groups and civil servants magic up new ways of making life more difficult and expensive for ordinary people, this Coalition faces annihilation at the ballot box.

Fine Gael needs a coherent answer soon for what its role will be in an Ireland of higher taxes, unsustainable levels of spending and crippling regulation, or the public will answer for us. – Yours, etc,



Young Fine Gael,


Co Kerry,

Sir, – If I were lucky enough to own a petrol station just across the Border, I would be too busy to write to you.

I would be frantically converting my car-wash to a drive-through beer and wine shop where I could (sterling or euro accepted) fill your boot with slabs of beer and bottles of wine.

Now that’s what I call an all-Ireland economy. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 7.

Sir, – Those who encourage the move to increase alcohol prices fail to understand that they are dealing with the result, not the cause. As a society we should be working hard to educate our young at secondary school age as to the effects of early abuse of alcohol and drugs. This also requires that we should be actively engaging them in hobbies and pursuits so that their leisure time is fulfilling.

Youth clubs should be available everywhere, open to all and should receive the maximum help from the Government. – Yours, etc,





Co Wicklow.

Sir, – There is a lot of comment regarding the increase in alcohol prices and the interference with people’s enjoyment of its consumption. Perhaps if drinkers were to enjoy the beer, wine or spirits that contain the said alcohol instead they would get even greater satisfaction and still have a clear head the next day.

The taste and flavour of our many craft beers and spirits are so far ahead of the insipid and characterless offerings of the multinational corporations that, once enjoyed, you will never go back. – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.