Government announces new Alcohol policy - Reaction from Irish Medical Organisation
“Welcome for Minimum Pricing Structure for alcohol but disappointment at the decision to shelve a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport”.
Thursday 24th October 2013. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has welcomed the Government’s decision to introduce a Minimum Price for Alcohol. Speaking today, Dr. Matthew Sadlier, President of the IMO, said that the setting of a minimum price for alcohol was “a critical step to tackling the scourge of alcohol misuse and abuse in Ireland. Alcohol has simply become too affordable particularly for young people and this measure will help address that.”
However the IMO has criticised the decision of the Government not to proceed with a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport; “We believe that the decision not to ban alcohol sponsorship in sport is a missed opportunity.”
The IMO have been calling for minimum alcohol pricing and a ban on alcohol advertising and promotion as part of a range of measures to reduce the burden of alcohol on future generations.
Alcohol is associated with more than 60 acute and chronic health disorders ranging from accidents and assaults to mental health problems, cardiovascular disease, liver cirrhosis and certain cancers.
Irish people rank among the highest consumers of alcohol in Europe and of particular concern are consumption levels and patterns among young people. According to the HBSC Study 2010, over half of of 15-17 year olds report having been “really drunk” while over a third reported being drunk in the last 30 days.
Minimum Pricing Structure for Alcohol Products
Speaking today IMO President Dr Matthew Sadlier said “In Ireland, despite high excise duties alcohol has become increasingly more affordable. In particular, alcohol off-trade prices have decreased dramatically. Alcohol Action have shown that it is now possible for a woman to drink her low-risk weekly limit of alcohol for just €6.30 while a man can drink his low-risk limit for less than €8.50. For the majority of 16-21 year olds who receive over €20 per week in pocket money, alcohol is just too easily affordable.”
Under a Minimum pricing structure, the price per unit becomes more expensive particularly affecting demand by younger binge drinkers and excessive harmful drinkers who are most likely to purchase cheaper alcohol, thus minimum pricing can reduce alcohol-related harm without necessarily penalising moderate drinkers. Analysis from Canada where minimum pricing has been in place in some Provinces for decades concludes that a 10% rise in average minimum alcohol prices is associated with a reduction of 32% in death wholly due to alcohol, a 9% reduction in chronic and acute alcohol related hospitalisations and a 3.4% reduction in total consumption.
Following enactment of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill further analyses will be needed of consumption patterns as well as health and crime data to set the minimum price. Scotland is planning to introduce a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol.
The IMO is disappointed at the Government’s decision not to ban Alcohol Advertising and Promotion
The alcohol industry spends millions on advertising and promotion because it works. Essentially alcohol marketing increases brand awareness and it increases sales and young people are particularly susceptible to alcohol promotion.
Studies show that the volume of alcohol advertising and media exposure increases the likelihood that young people will start drinking, increases the amount of alcohol young people consume and increases the amount of alcohol young people consume on any one occasion. Research has also shown that an increase expenditure on alcohol advertising is associated with an increase in alcohol related harm among young people and a total ban on alcohol advertising reduces alcohol related harm.
Dr Matt Sadlier said “The IMO believe that the only way to ensure that young people are not exposed to alcohol marketing is to introduce a complete ban on alcohol advertising and promotion including the sponsorship of sporting activities and sporting organisations. Fears over funding for sports are unfounded as experience from other jurisdictions show that sports organisations do not necessarily rely on alcohol sponsorship and can simply seek alternative sponsorship from manufacturers and suppliers of non-alcoholic goods and services.”