MINISTER OF STATE Roisin Shortall has confirmed that the government is preparing to introduce new alcohol control measures to reduce the amount of alcohol people in Ireland are consuming.
“Overall we need to reduce the amount of alcohol that we drink”, she told Newstalk Breakfast this morning.
The cheap and easy availability of alcohol “happened in recent years” and is a serious factor in facilitating harmful alcohol consumption, she said. “We’re working to introduce a minimum price for alcohol – a floor below which you cannot sell alcohol.”
The junior minister said that problems with alcohol need to be tackled on different fronts at the same time through education, labelling with health warnings, alcohol abuse treatment, and alcohol prices and availability.
Shortall said that alcohol puts pressure on the health system and economically and socially “it’s costing us a lot”. “It costs about €3.7 billion a year in terms of extra pressures on the hospital system, alcohol-related crime, problems in the workplace – absenteeism, lack of competitiveness, accidents in the workplace and so on.”
The recent report on the deaths of children in care showed the extent to which parental alcohol abuse was a factor in children being taken into care, Shortall added.
“We’re drinking too much as a country. Per capita we’re drinking almost 12 litres of alcohol a year, that’s about the equivalent of a bottle of spirits a week per person over 15.”
Shortall said that plans for a Public Health Bill concerning the sale and availability of alcohol are well underway and that the steering group’s report is being referred to the cabinet committee on social policy.