Minimum alcohol price plan praised

A GROUP campaigning against cheap alcohol prices has welcomed Government plans to introduce an alcohol price “floor”.

Junior health minister Roisín Shortall is hoping to address the issue by including minimum pricing in a public health bill this year.

The move will double the price of the cheapest cans of lager and add €4 to the price of own-brand vodka, according to a report in a Sunday newspaper.

Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI), the national charity for alcohol-related issues, has been campaigning on the issue for three years.

Fiona Ryan, AAI director, described the plan to reduce the €3.6 billion annual cost of alcohol-related harm as a major step forward.

Ms Ryan said previous governments had tiptoed around the issue of imposing minimum pricing to tackle alcohol abuse.

“The price of alcohol has to be tackled if consumption is to be reduced,” she said.

“There is no getting round it. Whatever price is set, it is imperative that there is an end to alcohol at pocket money prices.”

Ms Ryan said the minimum pricing would form part of the national substance misuse strategy due to be published soon.

AAI is represented on the national steering group on alcohol abuse that has drawn up the strategy to change Ireland’s drinking habits.

Ms Shortall, who has responsibility for primary care and substance abuse, is reported to be considering a 55c per unit “floor” for alcohol — similar to the 45p imposed in a Scottish public health bill last November.

This would make it illegal for off-licences and supermarkets to sell a 500ml can of beer for less than €1.10. It would also introduce a minimum of €15.40 for a standard bottle of vodka.

The legislation would also mean red wine could not be sold for less than €4.40 a bottle, while white wine, which generally has a lower alcohol content, could have a minimum price of €3.60.

Ms Shortall is also believed to be examining restrictions on alcohol advertising, including a ban on televised advertisements before the 9pm watershed and a ban on alcohol price promotions in print media.

Kathryn D’Arcy, director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, was concerned that the minimum pricing legislation could be overturned under competition law.

She urged Ms Shortall to bring back “below-cost” selling legislation that was lifted in 2006 by the then enterprise minister Micheal Martin to encourage supermarket competition.

“Instead of looking at one area that will affect the moderate drinker as much as everyone else, we must seek to address the way we drink in Ireland,” she said.

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