Alcohol policy in Ireland

Excerpts from ‘Alcohol policy in Ireland and Scotland’

by Lucy Dillon


On 2 March 2016, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), Alcohol Focus Scotland and Eurocare held a joint event in Edinburgh to discuss alcohol policy in Scotland and Ireland. They subsequently published the proceedings of the event in Alcohol policy in Scotland and Ireland: European trailblazers or Celtic fringes?1 The event came about as governments in both countries promoted policies that focused on increasing the price of alcohol, reducing its availability, and restricting its marketing. Similarly, both governments were seen to face sustained opposition from global alcohol producers in implementing these policies.

The published proceedings contain the five papers presented on the day and notes from the final discussion session.

Whisky galore? Policy challenges and priorities in Scotland’, Alison Douglas, chief executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland

Douglas described the pattern of alcohol consumption in Scotland, highlighting the widespread harms experienced in particular in deprived communities. She argued that in terms of cost-effectiveness of interventions to reduce consumption and harm, the three ‘best buys’ were to take action on alcohol pricing, availability and marketing. They were to be seen as mutually reinforcing and should therefore be implemented ‘collectively’.

Finding the right measure? Policy challenges and priorities in Ireland’, Suzanne Costello, chief executive, Alcohol Action Ireland

Costello described Irish alcohol consumption patterns, emphasising that ‘binge drinking is a real problem in Ireland’. Alcohol-related harms were highlighted, including alcohol-related deaths, and their role in deaths by suicide in Ireland. Addressing Ireland’s drinking ‘culture’ was described as presenting a particular challenge. As with previous speakers, she identified alcohol pricing, availability, consumer information, and advertising and marketing as requiring action if consumption and harms were to be addressed. These reflected some of the key elements of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 that was described, including the use of product labels to contain a link to a public health website providing information on alcohol and its related harms. She concluded that at the time of presenting, the Irish political landscape was ‘much more favourable to health issues’.

1    Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (2016) Alcohol policy in Scotland and Ireland: European trailblazers or Celtic fringes? Edinburgh: Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems. http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/26101/ (see below)

Alcohol policy in Scotland and Ireland: European trailblazers or Celtic fringes?

On 2nd March 2016, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), Alcohol Focus Scotland and Eurocare, held a joint event in the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh to explore and discuss alcohol policy in Scotland and Ireland. Governments in Scotland and Ireland are pushing forward policies that focus on increasing alcohol price and reducing availability and marketing, in the face of sustained opposition by global alcohol producers.

In the context of a refresh to the current Scottish Alcohol Strategy, ‘‘Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol’’, and Ireland introducing a new Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which includes Minimum Unit Pricing and is wide ranging in its provisions related to marketing and availability, the event provided an opportunity to hear from experts who are centrally involved in influencing alcohol policies. As well as providing an update on Scottish, Irish and European alcohol challenges and priorities, the findings of the latest MESAS (Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy) report, which was launched on 1st March 2016, were presented.

 

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