Extra €1m to help curb binge drinking

The Government is to provide an extra €1m in an effort to curb binge drinking and other forms of alcohol abuse.

Individual grants of up to €41,600 are to be made available to drug and alcohol task forces, Health Minister Leo Varadkar announced, as he opened the third annual conference of the Alcohol Forum in Dublin.

Part of Action on Alcohol Week and supported by the HSE, the conference is examining how communities can tackle the alcohol problem and the role that marketing plays in influencing behaviour towards alcohol among young people in Ireland.

“Ireland has a serious problem — we drink too much alcohol,” Mr Varadkar said.

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“When we drink, we tend to binge drink. More than half of adult drinkers in the population are classified as harmful drinkers. Our aim is to reduce alcohol consumption to the OECD average and reduce binge drinking.

“The Government is tacking this with the Public Health Alcohol Bill which is the first ever public health legislation on alcohol and among the most far-reaching in Europe,” he said.

“It will bring in minimum unit pricing to tackle cheap booze, structural separation in stores to reduce availability and visibility, health and calorie labelling to give people more information about the risks they are taking, and also marketing and advertising restrictions.

“I’m also happy to confirm that €1m is being made available under the Dormant Accounts Action Plan, which will allow grants of €41,600 to be made available to every one of the Drug and Alcohol Task Forces to raise awareness about alcohol-related harm, and to change attitudes.”

The conference was addressed by BT Young Scientist winners Ian O’Sullivan and Eimear Murphy who presented their award-winning project on the impact of drinking in the home on youth behaviour.

They found parental drinking habits, particularly that of the father, had a major impact on children’s drinking.

They will represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists taking place next September in Milan.

Speaking at the conference, CEO of Alcohol Forum, Kieran Doherty said: “Over-consumption of alcohol affects the economy, local communities, and families across the country and can be directly attributed to around 88 deaths a month.

“Our conference is examining the relationship people have with alcohol and how communities throughout the country play a pivotal role in tackling the problem.”

Keynote speakers included marketing expert David Jernigan who teaches courses on media advocacy and alcohol policy in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US.

Thomas Babor, professor of community medicine at the University of Connecticut, explored solutions for alcohol-related problems in the community.

Ann Hope from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at Trinity College discussed what communities can do to tackle our alcohol problem.

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