LAST week, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 made its slow and tedious passage through the committee stage in the Seanad with numerous attempts from across the floor of the Upper House to try to dilute its impact, fuelled by intense lobbying from the drinks industry. And it still has quite a way to go yet.
Chief among the concerns of those in the industry are the proposals for minimum pricing of alcohol which could see the price of some products in off-licences double, further advertising restrictions imposed and the requirement to screen off the areas where alcohol is sold in shops, which is not really practical in many smaller outlets. It suits vested interests to drag out the debate on this legislation. t suits vested interests to drag out the debate on this legislation
The Alcohol Health Alliance put the delay – almost two years so far – into a rather thought-provoking public health context by pointing out that, since the Bill first came before the Houses of the Oireachtas, an estimated further 2,000 lives have been lost to alcohol-related illnesses, over 100,000 children have commenced drinking and alcohol remains a factor in half of all suicides in Ireland. Doctors and nurses in our emergency departments and throughout the health services grapple with the devastation caused to people’s lives through alcohol and dealing with this fall-out costs our health service about €1.5billion annually.
Defending the Bill in the Seanad, Minister for Health Simon Harris said that the 2017 Healthy Ireland Survey found that nearly four out of 10 of us binge-drink regularly: ‘The more we drink, the higher our risk of developing life-changing illnesses such as alcoholic liver diseases or alcohol-related cancers. We can no longer ignore the evidence or the risks.’
It’s difficult to argue with that.