Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill aim to do?
The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is a progressive piece of legislation designed to significantly and positively alter Ireland’s harmful relationship with alcohol. It will ensure that alcohol misuse is treated as a serious public health problem.By reducing our alcohol consumption, we can reduce alcohol harm across our communities; by targeting the protection of children and younger people, we can ensure a healthier outcome for future generations.The ambition of the Bill is to reduce Ireland’s consumption to the ‘Healthy Ireland’ target of 9.1 litres per capita by 2020. Our current consumption stands at 11.45 litres, 25% above OECD averages.The target of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill when first agreed by government (2013), was to reduce our overall consumption by 22% to 9.1 litres, that is a 3.25% reduction per annum for seven years (2020), which by any standard is an extremely modest objective.The Bill tackles four important aspects that fuel our continued high-risk consumption of alcohol: price, marketing, health information and structural separation.Acting cohesively, the measures are greater than the sum of its parts; implemented together, they will provide a reasonable, pragmatic means to achieving the ambition of this progressive public health initiative.
Is alcohol consumption on the rise?
YES.In 2016, Ireland’s consumption of alcohol rose by a further 4.8% to 11.46 litres of pure
alcohol per capita, equivalent of: 46 bottles of vodka, 130 bottles of wine, or 498 pints of beer.The source of data on alcohol consumption is the Revenue’s Statistics & Economic Research Branch, who quarterly/annually release the alcohol clearance assessed for excise duty. Since 1960 Ireland’s alcohol consumption has increased threefold; since 2010 our average consumption has been 11.25 litres.The EU average is 9 litres, the OECD average is 9.1 litres; the global WHO average is 6.2 litre.If Ireland’s drinking population was to follow HSE low-risk weekly recommended limits for alcohol consumption, our per capita rate would need to fall to 7 litres pure alcohol per capita.
What is Minimum Unit Pricing?
Minimum Unit Price (MUP) is a targeted measure designed to stop strong alcohol products with the highest alcohol content being sold at the lowest price.It will ensure that a gram of alcohol cannot be sold for less than 10 cent. Each alcohol product contains a gram quantity of alcohol, for example a typical 500 ml can of beer has 16g; a can of cider 23g; a bottle of whiskey 221g.The 2017 Annual Price Survey conducted by Alcohol Action Ireland demonstrated the affordability of cheap, strong alcohol: A 700ml bottle of Vodka at 37.5% alcohol volume (207g) was available for €12.99,under a new MUP regime this must be sold at a minimum of €20.70.A 500ml can of beer at 5% alcohol volume (20gms) was available for €1.37, under a new MUP regime this must be sold at a minimum of €2.00. A 500ml can of cider at 6% alcohol volume (24gms) was available for €1.37,under a new MUP regime this must be sold at a minimum of €2.40.
Will MUP be effective?
YES.Research indicates that the proposed MUP regime would lead to a 15% reduction in consumption amongst high risk drinkers, and an overall decrease in population consumption
Will it affect the price of the Pint in the pub?
NO.MUP will not affect the price of alcohol products in pubs, clubs and restaurants where alcohol price reflects many other cost variables beyond the wholesale cost.
Will it penalise the average normal drinker?
NO.The normal, average drinker likely consumes a low-risk weekly limit of average priced product are not likely impacted by the new price regime. Heavy drinkers are more price-sensitive than moderate or low-risk drinkers and gravitate to the cheapest alcohol.
Will it affect the cost of exports?
NO.There are no mitigating circumstances to domestic industries or exporters arising.Alcohol exports are approximately 1% of Ireland’s annual goods exports.
Will its introduction stimulate cross border alcohol shopping?
NO.As an instrument of public policy, a joint approach between both Governments on the island of Ireland has been agreed on its commencement, so avoiding any unintended consequences, particularly in relation to cross border shopping.
Is there a legal challenge to Minimum Unit Pricing?
NO.A recent case to the UK Supreme Court, brought by the Scotch Whisky Association, et al.,appealing the Scottish government’s decision to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing as an instrument of public policy to address its societal alcohol related harms, was dismissed. It brought the ‘Issue of Proportionality’ to the fore. The judgement of the Justices of the Court affirms the principles of Public Health and the value of health and well-being.
Will MUP be inflationary?
NO;it will largely have no impact on the price of the seven alcohol products currently within the Central Statistics Office’s CPI rebase, Basket of 100 Goods and Services.
What are the principal measures on curbing alcohol advertising?
The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill contains a modest set of regulations that will establish a statutory regime, so making redundant a largely futile self-regulation, and voluntary code, of industry.The Bill does NOT propose to prohibit advertising of alcohol products.In the future, all alcohol advertising will be factual and/or informative, defined within astrict-criteria that supports the presentation of the product, its production, its taste, its price, etc., while also containing appropriate warnings about the health risks associated with its consumption.All alcohol advertising will have to contain health information and warnings.There will be a 9pm broadcast watershed for alcohol advertising on television and radio.Advertising alcohol products in Cinema is limited to films certified over 18 years or more.It will prohibit advertising in certain places such as proximity to schools and early learning services; park and playgrounds, and public transport.Additionally, a range of regulations to prohibit and restrict price-based promotions foralcohol products, which are commonly positioned on social media, will be introduced.
Will these measures be effective?
YES.Evidence based research, both internationally and nationally, has demonstrated that alcohol marketing including advertising, sponsorship and other forms of promotion, increases the likelihood that young people will start to use alcohol, and to drink more, if they are already
Will the measures mean the end to certain forms of advertising like popular seasonal TV adverts?
YES.Restricting advertisements for alcohol products to content about the nature of products will ensure that conceptual led narratives, shaped on audience profiling, such as identifying the ambitions and aspirations of young people, will be prohibited in alcohol advertising.Future campaigns will be less likely to mimic human experiences - borrow every moment, reflect every emotion or share every success; glamourise life and appeal to children, as they will no longer see alcohol products aligned with physical performance, personal or social success or the variety of other positive outcomes.
Will these measures damage the alcohol industry’s small players and new entrants?
NO.There is no ban or prohibition to alcohol advertising or marketing. New entrants as any other company will advertising and market its goods as any other player in a open market economy.
Will these measures have a major impact on the advertising industry and/or market?
NO. In 2017, it is anticipated that the Irish advertising market will likely exceed €1.1 billion, while the sponsorship market will be worth approximately €173m. The Drinks Industry will spend close on €50 million, on direct advertising. The proposed measures, when implemented, will likely have a minute impact of less than 0.02% on this overall market spend.
Will the Bill prohibit sponsorship of the arts or cultural festivals?
NO.Only child centred events and motor racing events are specifically prohibited from alcohol sponsorship.
Do these measures exist in other countries?
YES. France is the leading exponent of this instrument of public health policy. Other European countries to have implemented aspects of regulation of alcohol marketing are Iceland, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and Lithuania.
What are the principal measures on Health Information labelling?
The legislation will ensure that all alcohol products must bear health information and warning of: the danger of alcohol consumption, the danger of alcohol consumption when pregnant, inform the public of the direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers, the quantity of grams of alcohol, the energy value, and details of a website (askaboutalcohol.ie)
Why is this necessary?
Citizens have the right to be informed about the products they purchase and consume, which are known to be harmful to their health. The prime consideration should be the need to inform and protect the consumer.
Will these measures be effective?
Label content has been effective in increasing health knowledge and the citizen’s awareness and understanding of risk, especially amongst young people.Public health warnings on labels have proven to be effective on tobacco products in terms of increasing awareness of harmful effects and modifying cultural behaviour.
Will these changes not impede business?
The changes envisaged within the legislative measures, which have a three-year transition period of compliance, would merely require an addition to, or redesign of existing content.Currently, all food producers must display a set of mandatory information on a label.Producers must comply with other aspects of labelling such as volume expressed by millilitres and alcohol strength, and in this instance, they will have a 3 year transition period of compliance.At a time when printing technology can be both localised, and individualised, at a mass scale, the idea that such measures are costly or inefficient is patently ludicrous.
What are the principal measures on Separation and visibility of Alcohol products?
The mass availability of alcohol products in our shops, is facilitating our high consumption of alcohol. Between 1998 and 2013 the combined number of wine and spirit off-licences increased by 377%.The ubiquitous presence of alcohol, even on the most routine shopping trip, has enabled people to casually, and impulsively, purchase alcohol products in the same manner as everyday grocery items.To disrupt this normality, and to re-establish an environment for considered purchasing, the changes envisaged within the legislation will ensure that alcohol products sold in mixed retail outlets instructed by a statutory regime overseen by Environmental Health Officers.The changes, which have a two-year transition period for compliance, also state that alcohol products and promotion are less visible to the shopping public and that the public do not have to pass through the area to gain access to, or purchase, any other products.
Why is this necessary?
Alcohol is not an everyday grocery. Its impact on the individual and the wider community is known, and as such, the retailer requires a state licence to sell.
Will these measures be effective?
YES.An essential component of marketing alcohol is in-store promotion, which by means of intrusive visibility, prompts impulsive purchase; curbing access and visibility will limit prompts.Nielsen market research (2012) demonstrate that 37% of wine purchasing decisions are made in store.
Will these changes not impede business?
The changes envisaged do not prohibit any licence holder from continuing to sell alcohol.For many years the licence holder has largely had free rein on the right to sell; what this legislative proposal firmly re-establishes is a responsibility in selling alcohol.The CSO most recent data from the Household Budget Survey 2015-16, indicates a near even spilt on alcohol expenditure (€6.8 bn) between the On-Trade and Off-Trade market.The cost associated with any infrastructural requirement can largely be attributable to routine maintenance or modernisation of in-store presentation.
Airports are exempt from any structural separation measures.
A brief overview of the economic and social impact of high risk alcohol consumption and related harms in Ireland:
• The annual cost of alcohol related illness and harm costs the Irish exchequer
• Every day 3 people will die from alcohol related illnesses.
• Today, 1,500 beds in our hospitals are occupied by alcohol related patients
• 1.4 million people in Ireland have a harmful relationship with alcohol.
• The cost of excessive alcohol consumption is a major drain on current public
expenditure: Health, Justice, Social Protection; it is estimated that for every €100m
of public monies spent, €4.6m will be deployed to mitigate the harmful outcomes of
• 283,866 work days were lost to alcohol related absenteeism in 2016
• Each year 60,000 teenagers will begin, all too early, their drinking careers.
• One third of 15 years old children in Ireland been drunk in their lifetime.
• Alcohol is a factor in half of all suicides in Ireland.
• One in every eleven children’s lives is being negatively impacted by parental
In 2010, the WHO published ‘Global Strategy on the Harmful Use of Alcohol’ which was
endorsed by all 193 WHO member states, including Ireland. The strategy aims to reduce the
harmful use of alcohol by giving guidance for action at all levels and setting priority areas for
The central actions agreed have informed the policy measures contained within the PublicHealth Alcohol Bill
Thankfully, we all enjoy a relatively free and open society. Undoubtedly, this supports a flourishing open market economy where business has the freedom to easily develop and quickly prosper. And, while most citizens must take responsibility for own actions including levels of alcohol consumption, society, and our government, cannot rely on this approach alone, as it grapples with the consequences, costs and impact of high risk alcohol consumption and related harmful outcomes.The market cannot, and will not, resolve our problem. So, the state must have the right to act to protect its citizens, especially its young people. International health organisations and evidence based public health research dictates that public action must now be taken to curb high risk levels of alcohol consumption. The rights of private, invested interests, must be rebalanced to allow for a reasonable and pragmatic public intervention to take place.The Public Health Alcohol Bill is just that opportunity.
Source: Alcohol Action Ireland, 01/02/18