Harmful drinking “is the norm” in this country, according to new data released by the Health Research Board.
Dr Deirdre Mongan, the lead author of the report and a research officer at the HRB, said young drinkers, aged 18-24, have the most harmful habits in the country. The quantity they drink and the pattern of their drinking is putting them at increased health risk at a young age, and later in life, according to the study.
The research found alcohol is responsible for up to three deaths every day and that 50% of Irish drinking can be described as binge-drinking.
Beer accounts for 47% of alcohol consumption in this country, wine for 27%, spirits 18%, and cider 7%.
The HRB called for increases in the price of alcohol as any budget increases in excise duty between 1984 and 2014 led to a visible dip in drinking.
It is strongly backing the Government’s Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which brings in minimum unit pricing; it would mean most cans of beer would cost €2 while a bottle of wine with 11.5% volume of alcohol would cost over €8.
Under the bill, alcohol labels would have to include a link to a public health website and include information on calories in pubs and off-licences. Alcohol advertising would also be banned near schools, playgrounds, and at bus and train stations. A broadcasting watershed is also planned.
Alcohol Action Ireland said the latest research shows that the nation’s attitude to alcohol is placing an unsustainable burden on the health service and taxpayer.
Advocacy spokesman Conor Cullen said excessive drinking has harmed the victims of drink-fuelled assaults, drink-driving collisions, and children who are suffering due to excessive parental drinking.
“The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is the first legislation of its kind in Ireland, as it treats alcohol as the serious public health problem that this HRB report clearly demonstrates it is,” he said.
“We can no longer simply accept this damage as a normal part of our daily lives.”
Professor Frank Murray, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said the bill must be a “key component of a new 10-year plan for the health services”.
“The data shows how great the burden of alcohol use is on the hospital system — taking up thousands of beds every night and contributing to the crisis in accident and emergency departments, delaying treatment for many other sick people,” he said.
The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland did not comment yesterday but last year said the bill would not “meaningfully address misuse”.
It claimed the legislation did include measures the industry always supported, but had draconian elements. The federation had warned that “legislation will ban displaying the reason that 80% of tourists claim they travel to Ireland — to have a drink in an Irish pub”.
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