SPORTS ADVERTISING AND sponsorship by alcohol companies is to be phased out “over a reasonable period of time”, Deputy Minister Roisín Shortall said this week.
Speaking in response to a question from Donegal TD Charlie McCanalogue in the Dáil, the Deputy Minister of State at the Department of Health said that she is to bring a memo to Government before the summer to provide for a number of measures.
We are keen to introduce minimum pricing and are watching carefully what has been happening in Scotland in this regard. We also know that when it comes to young people, sports advertising and sponsorship by alcohol companies is effective. That is why so much money is put into it. I am committed to phasing out that over a reasonable period of time.
She added: “There are contractual arrangements in place at present and I am working with the different national sporting bodies to agree a proposal to phase out that over a period of time.”
Deputy McCanalouge put the question to Minister Shorthall following a report published by Headstrong which showed that out of 14,000 teenagers and young adults, 38 per cent had problematic or harmful drinking behaviour, with a further 7 per cent having signs of alcohol dependence.
In my own locality on one night last October, 26 students were checked into the accident and emergency department in Letterkenny General Hospital because of alcohol poisoning. That came as a result of a 99 cent drinks promotion.
Deputy McCanalogue told TheJournal.ie:.
It’s very, very worrying where you see a situation whereby 26 young people check into casualty suffering from alcohol poisoning. It is the extreme edge of the alcohol problem this country has. We have always had it. The association has been marketed as part of what the Irish is about in the past as well. It’s something we need to tackle. It’s at all levels across all age groups.
He asked the Minister: “What will the Government do to try to address this growing problem?”
Minister Shorthall replied that “I hope we will all agree on tackling this issue in a meaningful way in the coming months”.
We as a society can no longer tolerate the level of alcohol abuse in this country, particularly among young people. There is no room for ambivalence in our approach. My Department is now working on developing an action plan on alcohol, based on the recommendations in the substance misuse strategy report.
Deputy McCanalogue said that sports should be promoted as an alternative to those who are drinking too much “but instead [alcohol] is intrinsically associated with sporting events”.
He told TheJournal.ie that people are “drinking at a younger age all the time and drinking more than they have before. This is leading to serious issues about them being able to fufill their potential”.
He added that there is a growing issue among young people with obesity and “we really need to be encouraging sport and healthy living as a key part of a young person’s daily life” through our education system and national policy.
The Deputy also added that he thought Ireland is lax in relation to serving people who overdrink in pubs, and this should not be tolerated. “We indulge that far too much in this country. Changes in policy in relation to that would help change behaviour.”
In relation to the closing hours of licensed premisises, he added: “I think there is a case there that needs to be examined in terms of how that works”. Deputy McCanalouge pointed to countries like Australia, where there are often different and staggered closing times for pubs and nightclubs.