Shortall: New drink laws fall short

The Coalition’s proposed measures to tackle alcohol misuse do not go far enough and are unlikely to be delivered before the general election, former junior health minister Róisín Shortall has said.

On Tuesday, the Government published proposed legislation designed to reduce alcohol consumption. The plans include restrictions on the sale of cheap drink, warning labels on bottles and cans, and restrictions on advertising.

Health professionals welcomed the moves and said that they would go towards preventing deaths and illnesses. The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland said the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill was a “huge step forward”.

However, the college also expressed disappointment that restricting drinks companies from sponsoring sports would not be included.

Ms Shortall, who oversaw alcohol legislation during her time in health, was also critical and claimed some of the Coalition plans only fell into line with the drinks industry’s policies.

The Dublin TD said it would be some time before the law is debated, drafted, and winds its way through the Oireachtas and it was hard to see it being implemented before the next general election.

She criticised the Coalition for abandoning plans to stop drinks giants sponsoring events and pointed out that large numbers of children saw drinks advertisements at such events.

The proposal to make it compulsory to separate drinks from other products in supermarkets had also been on the statute books since 2008, she added.

Fine Gael TD Michael Creed said that the measures could go further and include a “sunset clause” for alcohol sponsorship of sports events.

“I believe that by not providing for a total ban on alcohol sponsorship, we run the risk of undermining the effectiveness of the other very worthwhile measures.

“A sunset clause would allow the various national governing bodies of sport some time to prepare for the changeover. This is an issue I intend to pursue with Minister [Leo] Varadkar.”

The published legislation does specify that alcohol advertisements targeted at or appealing to children will be banned. The advertising of alcohol may also be banned at certain times of the day, while there will be restrictions on particular kinds of marketing to ensure alcohol products are not produced, designed or promoted to appeal to children.

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