Barriers to shield children from alcohol ‘are too short’

New barriers to shield children from alcohol in shops and supermarkets will have little impact as they will be no taller than a 7-year-old, the National Off-license Association association has warned.

The controversial Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 which will introduce minimum pricing on drink, mandatory health labelling, as well as restrictions around advertising is due to be debated in the Dáil tomorrow.

The new laws also require that supermarkets and shops separate drink with a 1.2m barrier.

However, the chair of the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA), Gary O’Donovan, said he is “disappointed” by the “dilution of one of the bill’s core sections”, meaning alcohol for sale in shops will still be in clear sight of children.

He said: “There have been a number of recent amendments to the bill, meaning its impact on reducing the visibility of alcohol will be negligible, which is unacceptable within a health promotion context, and will mean the continued exposure of children to alcohol, despite public comments to the contrary.”

Writing in today’s Irish Examiner, Mr O’Donovan, who owns eight off-licences in Cork, said the 1.2m barrier equates to the average height of a 7-year-old boy.

“What impact will this have on the de-normalising of alcohol, if an eight-year old, or nine-year old, not to mention 15 or 16-year old can visibly see it?” he asked.

“Alcohol is a controlled substance whose purchase should be a conscious decision, rather than an impulse while picking up milk, or filling up on petrol.”

Lobbyists for the alcohol industry have already criticised measures in the bill which will require them to provide health warnings, alcohol content and information on the amount of calories in the product. These warnings must cover at least a third of the label.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently ruled out any further changes to the bill after it was altered in the Seanad.

“We need to put public health first,” he said earlier this month before it was debated in the Dáil,” said Mr Varadkar.

“If you look at the number of people who die prematurely because of alcohol, the number of people that are in hospital at the moment because of alcohol, sexual assault, child abuse, violence on our streets, road deaths, all very much linked to alcohol. Exports are important but maybe not that important.”

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