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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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Bottles of wine look likely to be set at a minimum of €8, cans of beer at €2

It would be part of minimum-pricing laws to set a floor price on beer, wine and spirits.

Image: Johnny Green/PA Wire

Updated 8.42 pm

AN OIREACHTAS JOINT committee has backed the government’s plan to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol under measures designed to reduce harmful drinking.

The plans could also see drinks producers being made to pay a “social responsibility levy”. This charge would be designed to capture the extra profits alcohol producers started taking in when prices were increased through the floor price for all drinks.

In a report released today, voiced its support for the government’s approach:

The weight of evidence presented to the Committee supported the introduction of a MUP for alcohol, as an effective means to reduce and disrupt harmful alcohol consumption patterns.

The committee also recommended setting an MUP at the “upper end” of a range between €0.60 and €1.10 to offer “the best opportunity to reduce harmful drinking and associated social impacts”.

Pic1

At the top of the spectrum, that would put the minimum price on the average 500ml can of beer at about €2, a bottle of wine at more than €8 and a bottle of spirits at nearly €24.

The price increase was expected to lead to both higher VAT returns for the government and increased profits for drinks companies, the report said.

To “capture” some of those extra profits, the government should also look at bringing in a “social responsibility levy” on the alcohol industry, it added.

Any additional revenue generated for the exchequer could be ring-fenced to fund health sector social marketing initiatives, and addiction treatment and rehabilitation services,” it said.

Pic2

Some of the other measure the committee recommended include:

  • Health warnings on alcohol packaging with similar rules to those controlling tobacco labels
  • A 9pm watershed for alcohol commercials on TV and radio
  • Bans on the advertising of either retail discounting or multi-buy alcohol promotions
  • Stopping sports sponsorship by alcohol companies, although the government has indicated this wasn’t realistic “in the medium term”

Rugby Union - Heineken Cup - Final - RC Toulon v Saracens - RC Toulon Training Session and Press Conference - Millennium Stadium Source: Joe Giddens/PA Archive

Below-cost sales and high prices

Publicans and off-licenses have backed the MUP move, although the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) has called for the laws to go further and include a ban on selling booze at below-invoice costs.

But today the group said it was “very concerned” about proposals for a levy on the drinks sector to capture some of the extra cash from floor pricing, which it claimed wouldn’t increase profits for retailers.

It produced this table of how a MUP of €1 per 10 grams of alcohol would affect prices:

Noffla Source: NOffLA

Major brewers and distillers have said MUP for alcohol would be “ineffective” and the best policy would be a straight ban on below-cost sales.

Scotland has already voted in similar laws, but they are being fought through the EU courts after challenges from the whisky lobby and several major wine-producing nations.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who unveiled the alcohol-control plans in February, previously said new laws could be before the Dáil this summer although they would likely take up to 12 months to implement.

Pic3 Health Minister Leo Varadkar, centre Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland.

Alcoholic drinks are already more expensive in Ireland, on average, than anywhere else in the EU except Finland, thanks to sky-high excise duties.

Meanwhile, Irish people remain some of the heaviest drinkers in the world – and the rate of consumption has been increasing over the past two decades.

First published 12.21pm

READ: Home-made vodka has killed nearly 100 people in India > 

READ: 22-year-old recovering alcoholic tells how he stopped drinking eight cans of cider every night >

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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