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Irish Cancer Society urges minister not to drop proposed cancer warning labels on alcohol products

Political parties are under pressure to weaken some aspects of the legislation.

Image: Shutterstock/Herlanzer Tenhue

THE IRISH CANCER SOCIETY has urged the Minister for Health Simon Harris not drop the most contentious item of the Public Health Alcohol Bill – the cancer warning which would be placed on all products.

Harris has already rolled back on the so-called booze curtain for smaller retailers, a measure which he hoped would reduce visibility of alcoholic beverages for younger shoppers, and it was reported this week that the warning provision could also be dropped.

Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, Donal Buggy said the minister must re-affirm his, and his department’s, commitment to ensuring that “the undeniable link between alcohol and fatal cancers will be included on alcohol labelling as part of the  Bill”.  

“It is deeply disappointing to read of government sources flying kites about the potential dropping of this provision which strengthens the legislation, is clear, and is evidently workable,” he said. 

The drinks industry said such a move would make Ireland unique, as no other country in the world has similar labelling. 

In a statement for the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), director Patricia Callan said:

The amendments that have been submitted are required to protect the reputation of Ireland’s quality drinks brands, to allow continued innovation in the drinks sector, to ensure brewery and distillery visitor centres can grow and to safeguard rural jobs and the economy.

However, Buggy said unless the link between alcohol and fatal cancers is included in primary legislation, the government may struggle to produce meaningful regulations for health labelling.  

“Anything less can only be viewed as the government caving to industry interests,” said Buggy, who added that

“Labels providing information to the public about the link between alcohol and fatal cancers help to make sure that people are aware of certain risks associated with consumption, and can make informed decisions on that basis.  

“Consumers need factual, scientific information to help them make a choice about their health and any roll-back on cancer warnings will undermine the labelling section of the Bill entirely.”

The Public Health Alcohol Bill passed through all stages of the Seanad, with no amendments made, during the week. Senator Frances Black commented that parties are coming under pressure to weaken the legislation, particularly around aspects on cancer warnings. 

The Bill is due back in the Dáil next week. 

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