Professor Joe Barry said that alcohol companies have targeted sporting events through sponsorship of GAA events, rugby and, to a lesser extent, soccer.
Pointing to the fact that children wear Celtic shirts emblazoned with the Carling logo and Liverpool strips promoting Carlsberg, Prof Barry said: “The companies do not put their names on these jerseys for fun. They can be associated with getting people to drink.”
The Cork-born population health medicine specialist, based at Trinity College Dublin, said it was a fact of life that many people’s heroes have had problems with drink, and that causes its own problems.
“It’s a tragedy but it hasn’t stopped it from happening. Trying to get the balance right between being a killjoy and highlighting the dangers is quite difficult,” he said.
Speaking at a conference on substance and alcohol misuse in Killarney, he called for legislation to impose stricter controls on the sale of alcohol in off-licenses and supermarkets.
“There should be no below-cost selling. Having alcohol available at pocket money prices makes it attractive to anybody, particularly young people who don’t have a lot of money, and those desperately wanting alcohol.
“To do yourself harm in a pub is a lot more difficult because, for one thing, it is a lot more expensive.”
Prof Barry, a member of Alcohol Action Ireland, said there was a danger that alcohol company sponsorship of popular television series like Desperate Housewives may make it more acceptable for people, particularly women, to consume too much alcohol at home.