Public Health chief says alcohol laws should limit licenced premises

At the launch of the HSE's "A Focus on Alcohol and Health in Cork and Kerry" was Rosalind Condon, Editorial Team Project Manager with guest speakers, from left: Dr. Augustine Pereira, Director of Public Health, HSE Cork and Kerry; Dr. Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dept of Health; David Lane, Co-Ordinator of Drug and Alcohol Service, HSE South; and Prof. Joe Barry, Professor in Population Health Medicine, Trinity College Dublin. Pic: Brian Lougheed

The Director of Public Health for the south of Ireland has said future alcohol laws should look to restrict the number of new licenced premises in problem drinking areas.

Dr Augustine Pereira suggested the initiative at the launch of his report “A focus on Alcohol & Health in Cork and Kerry” at Cork County Hall yesterday/this morning.

Dr Pereira said he was hopeful that the introduction of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act last year would, in time, “denormalise” alcohol consumption similar to the impact the smoking ban has had on cigarette use.

Asked if he felt there were other legislative initiatives that could be brought in to add to the provisions of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act, Dr Pereira said it “would be useful to look at alcohol licencing”.

“People already have an opportunity to give their feedback about new licenced premises and what they would like to see in an area,” Dr Pereira said.

Dr Pereira said the Southern Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force is made up of a number of groups that he would like to see engaged in the idea.

“It's a partnership action that I would like to invite and solicit them to look at what we can do around alcohol licensing within areas,” Dr Pereira said.

He said:

Depending on the drinking patterns in an area and the demography and the number of licensed premises in an area you might want to look at future licensed premises and whether we want to limit the number of licensed premises in an area.

The report is Dr Pereira’s first as Director of Public Health for HSE South, and the first annual report by a Director of Public Health in the region since 2004.

It focuses on the health harms caused by increased alcohol consumption, giving particular attention to what the report describes as the lesser known harmful effects, including the impact of alcohol on pregnancy, self-harm, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and cancers.

Dr Ronan Glynn, the Department of Health’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, also attended the launch and praised the report as thoughtful and insightful.

“The report has some really stark findings for the people of Cork and Kerry, not least of which is that each year approximately 300 people here die directly as a consequence of alcohol consumption,” Dr Gylnn said.

“But also this mortality rate really only represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of the impact that alcohol has on our health system, society, and more generally,” he said.

Among the issues raised in the report is the connection between alcohol and suicide and self-harm.

It cites a study on suicide cases in Cork from September 2008 and June 2012 which found that alcohol consumption was detected in the toxicology of 44% of 307 suicide cases, and in 21% of 8,145 self-harm cases.

Dr Pereira said the knock-on effect harmful drinking can have on the health of family-members, particularly children, is not one often discussed.

“There's growing research about adverse childhood experiences where the impact of alcohol abuse or harmful alcohol drinking in an adult in the family and what that impact can have on relationships, discordance within the family and the impact it can have on young children,” he said.

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