Self regulation of alcohol industry ‘is no regulation’

Alcohol Action Ireland has called on the Government to prioritise the health of children and not to pass the alcohol industry’s self-regulatory codes into law.

However, the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, which represents manufacturers and distributors of alcohol, said the voluntary codes were already working well and putting them on a statutory footing would strengthen them.

Alcohol Action Ireland told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children yesterday that the Government will be spurning the opportunity to make a significant difference to the wellbeing of future generations if it fails to tackle alcohol marketing and advertising in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, said: “Due to the ongoing failure to introduce effective regulations and legislation governing this area, the alcohol industry has effectively become Irish children and young people’s primary educator on alcohol.

"The alcohol industry writes the rules it sees fit to adhere to and decides whether they are being obeyed or not. In my view, self-regulation is no regulation.”

Professor Joe Barry, board member of Alcohol Action Ireland, welcomed the proposed introduction of labelling and health warnings on alcohol products, and said minimum unit pricing is a key measure.

“It has been claimed that this strategy is an attack on the poor. That is not the case. It is an attempt — based on evidence — to provide support to vulnerable drinkers to reduce their drinking, regardless of their economic circumstances.”

Ross MacMathúna, director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, said his organisation recognises that alcohol misuse needs to be addressed, but the marketing of alcohol brands was about differentiating brands from each other. “Alcohol consumption has fallen since 2000, but during that time different brands gain and lose market share,” he said.

“The codes in operation today function well and ABFI welcomes the intention to move them on to a statutory basis.”

Mr MacMathúna said the ABFI supports the Government’s intention to address the sale of cheap alcohol. “There is full agreement in ABFI that the best and quickest way to do this is by the reintroduction of a ban on below-cost selling of alcohol,” he said.

Earlier, Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, expressed concern that old, traditional pub signs would be made subject to the new requirement that all advertisements for alcohol carry health advice.

Evelyn Jones, chairwoman of the National Off-licence Association, said her organisation accepts that alcohol marketing must be regulated.

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