Irish Senate passes alcohol law, introducing minimum price and labelling

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For the first time, Ireland has adopted legislation on the risks associated with alcohol consumption, in a country where alcoholism has had devastating consequences. EURACTIV France’s media partner Ouest-France reports.

On 10 October, the Irish Senate adopted a law introducing a minimum price for alcohol. The law also introduces mandatory labels on alcoholic drinks to warn about the risks of drinking.

It is the first law in Ireland that treats alcohol as a matter of public health. The new legislation affects the price, access, marketing, advertising and labelling of alcohol, in a move aimed at reducing the “destructive” consumption of alcohol in Ireland.

Ireland unveils minimum alcohol price plan to reduce drinking

The Irish government, aiming to change the country’s “damaging attitude to alcohol”, approved on Wednesday (9 December) plans for minimum prices for drinks in the hope of reducing one of Europe’s highest levels of alcohol consumption.

The bill had already been adopted by the lower chamber of the Irish parliament almost three years after it was submitted in December 2015 and in spite of strong opposition by the alcohol industry. But it still needs to be enacted by the Irish president in order to come into force.

“Alcohol damages our health, it harms our communities, it hurts many families,” said Simon Harris, minister for health, before senators just after the law was adopted.

“It’s about putting in place a number of measures […] to try to change that corrosive culture that we currently have with alcohol in Ireland,” he explained, saying that he wanted to act “immediately” to implement the legislation.

Ireland's alcohol bill pleases EU health chief, irritates industry

The Irish government won praise from the EU’s Health Commissioner over a new bill, which imposes a stricter framework on alcohol consumption in Ireland, including a minimum unit price, labelling and marketing restrictions.

Minimum prices and restricted advertising

The legislation provides for a minimum price per unit of alcohol, restrictions on alcohol advertising – notably on television and in cinemas – and a ban on advertising in public parks, at bus stops and in train stations.

It requires that calorie content is displayed on alcoholic drinks which should also carry warnings about the link between alcohol and developing cancer.

Alcohol kills three people a day in Ireland, according to a report published in 2016 by the Health Research Board, an advisory body attached to the health ministry.

Following the vote by the Irish deputies, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar welcomed the adoption of a law that “will save countless lives” in Ireland.

Opposition: there is no evidence of a “link between alcohol and cancer”

Among the legislation’s critics, Patricia Callan, director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, said that these measures were likely to hinder alcohol trade and expressed doubts about their effectiveness.

“International studies show that warnings are useful to raise awareness but they don’t change behaviour,” she told AFP. “The scientific evidence certainly doesn’t warrant the direct link of alcohol and cancer,” she added. On the contrary, low consumption was beneficial to health, she asserted.

In May, Scotland introduced a minimum price for alcohol in order to combat alcoholism. Some Canadian states, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have also taken similar measures.

Scotland rolls out minimum alcohol pricing after years of legal blocks

Scotland on Tuesday (1 May) introduced minimum pricing for alcohol, in what First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hailed as a “bold” and “brave” policy move that has endured years of legal battles.

Further Reading

Beer boss: Mandatory alcohol labelling should respect EU food information to consumers law

If EU legislators decide to move away from self-regulation in the area of alcohol labelling, the legislation should respect the EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation, Pierre-Olivier Bergeron, the secretary-general of the Brewers of Europe told EURACTIV.com in an interview.

Pernod Ricard CEO: Alcohol tax ‘penalises’ responsible consumers

The decision to raise excise taxes on alcohol “penalises” the majority of consumers who drink responsibly, while those who have issues with alcohol will be unaffected as they will keep on drinking excessively, Alexandre Ricard told EURACTIV.com in an interview.

 

Erasmus students want to see alcohol prevention in EU Youth Strategy

Programmes which focus on the prevention of excessive alcohol consumption should be considered in the next EU Youth Strategy, João Pinto, the president of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) has said.

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