Alcohol Action Ireland has called for the swift implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to reduce health risks from alcohol, after a WHO report revealed that Ireland has the second highest rate of binge drinking in the world.
The WHO’s Global status report on alcohol and health 2014 found that 39% of all Irish people aged 15-years-old and over had engaged in binge drinking, or “heavy episodic drinking”, in the past 30 days. This puts Ireland just behind Austria (40.5%) at the top of the 194 countries studied and well ahead of our neighbours in Britain (28%).
When the 19% of non-drinkers in Ireland were excluded by the WHO. It found that almost two thirds of Irish men (62.4%) and one third of Irish women (33.1%) who drink alcohol had engaged in binge drinking in the previous month, almost half (48.2%) of all drinkers.
“How alcohol is consumed can be as important as the quantity consumed and binge drinking, defined as drinking at least six standard drinks (60g of alcohol) on one drinking occasion, is especially dangerous to health,” said Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues.
“Alcohol increases people’s risk of developing more than 200 diseases, including liver cirrhosis and several forms of cancers, and as it is not only the volume of alcohol consumed, but also the pattern of drinking over time that affects the risks of harm, a large amount of Irish people are putting themselves at risk of health harms due to their binge drinking.
“The WHO has found that worldwide about 16 percent of drinkers engage in binge drinking, but in Ireland it is three times this amount and this harmful drinking pattern is reflected by the fact that three people are dying every day due to alcohol in Ireland and 2,000 hospital beds are occupied here every night by people with alcohol-related illnesses,” said Ms Costello.
“This effective normalisation of drunkenness in our society has been fuelled by the widespread availability of cheap alcohol, which is then very heavily promoted, with young people a particular focus of these powerful and sophisticated advertising and marketing campaigns.
“If we are to effectively tackle this culture of harmful binge drinking then we need to tackle the key areas of alcohol pricing, marketing and availability, beginning with the swift implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. This Bill will replace the existing systems of alcohol industry self-regulation, which have proven to be wholly ineffective with regard to public health, particularly the protection of children and the vulnerable,” said Ms Costello.
Alcohol Action Ireland noted that while there has been a welcome reduction in Ireland’s per capita alcohol consumption in recent years, following increases in excise duty, the WHO report shows that we are still drinking almost twice the global average of 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per year, at 11.9 litres.
“This report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol in Ireland and we need to ensure that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is implemented as quickly as possible if we are serious about saving lives and improving the health and wellbeing of Irish people,” said Ms Costello.
Source: Alcohol Action Ireland, 14/05/2014