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Alcohol Bill: Government confirms plans for minimum pricing, advertising restrictions

However a ‘working group’ is being set up to look at the recommendation that drinks industry sponsorship of sporting events should be banned.

Image: two glasses of stout via Shutterstock

THE GOVERNMENT HAS outlined how it plans to introduce minimum pricing levels for alcohol as part of proposals to be included in the draft Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

‘Minimum Unit Pricing’ would set a price below which alcoholic drink cannot be sold.

According to the Department of Health, the price would be based on the number of grams of alcohol in any given product.

The Department it stressing that it won’t mean an across the board increase for prices. According to a statement:

The aim of MUP is to increase the price of alcohol which is cheap relative to its strength

MUP will be the instrument to be used to tackle the very low cost at which alcohol is sold in the off-trade sector (particularly in supermarkets).

By using MUP, we hope to target harmful and hazardous drinkers and reduce their consumption as there is evidence that this cohort of drinkers tend to purchase disproportionate amounts of such alcohol, no matter what is the income level of the drinker.

It’s planned that, once the legislation is passed, the unit price would be set based on research currently under way in Northern Ireland, where a similar policy is being pursued.

Other measures

The Bill will also include plans to limit the advertising of alcohol on TV and radio to evening hours, and in cinemas to over 18 certified films.

It’s proposed a new labelling system will be brought in, resulting in health warnings being placed on bottles and cans, as well as on promotional material.

It will also be required that manufacturers display the amount of pure alcohol (measured in grams) and the calorie count on each drink container.

Sports sponsorship

No immediate plan was confirmed to ban drinks industry sponsorship of sporting events. The measure had been one of the recommendations set out in the report of the Steering Group on a National Substance Misuse Strategy, which reported in February of last year.

Instead, a ‘working group’ is to be set up, with a deadline to report back in 12 months:

It agreed to establish a working group to consider the value, evidence, feasibility and implications (including the public health consequences for children and young people and the financial impact on sporting organisations) of regulating sponsorship by alcohol companies of major sporting events, and that the group will also consider alternative sources of funding for sporting organisations to replace potential lost revenue arising from any such regulation.

The group will comprise of a number of departments and shall be chaired by the Dept of An Taoiseach.

In the meantime, the Government has announced plans to put the existing voluntary code on sports sponsorship on a statutory footing.

Reaction

The Irish Medical Organisation – which represents doctors – has welcomed the publication of the Government’s plans regarding minimum pricing. However, it says the decision regarding sports sponsorship is a “missed opportunity”.

President of the organistion, Dr Matt Sadlier said  the only way to ensure that young people were not exposed to alcohol marketing “is to introduce a complete ban on alcohol advertising and promotion, including the sponsorship of sporting activities and sporting organisations”.

“Fears over funding for sports are unfounded as experience from other jurisdictions show that sports organisations do not necessarily rely on alcohol sponsorship and can simply seek alternative sponsorship from manufacturers and suppliers of non-alcoholic goods and services.”

The plans have also been welcomed by National Off-Licence Association, which says the measures announced “will go a long way in providing for the responsible retail of alcohol”.

Read: Government deal to implement minimum alcohol pricing welcomed>

Previously: Cabinet close to agreement on alcohol strategy, but sponsorship ban will be deferred>

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