Drink industry claims rejected

ON July 14, you reported calls by Dr Conor Farren that the drinks industry be held to account over the enormous amount of alcohol-related harm in Ireland.

You gave a right of reply to the industry in that article and you also very generously provided Rosemary Garth, a spokesperson on behalf of the industry, with the opportunity to write a further response in your edition of July 15.

Both the industry reply and the comments of Ms Garth contain falsehoods and inaccuracies which must be exposed.

They state that alcohol misuse is contrary to the interests of the drinks industry. This is patently untrue. Drinks companies make much more money from people who drink 60 pints per week than they do from people who drink just six pints a week.

Ms Garth states that it is only a small minority of us who drink excessively.

As she must know well, the average amount of alcohol consumed by drinkers in Ireland is well in excess of recommended international health guidelines.

She states that the voluntary guides governing alcohol advertising are very strict in Ireland. This is untrue. The industry sought and obtained permission to advertise alcohol during programmes which are preferentially watched by children relative to adults.

Ms Garth also presents the investment by the industry in the drinkaware website as evidence of their serious efforts to tackle alcohol-related harm. People who have been lured onto this website will notice that every page has links to a drinks diary where drinkers are encouraged to record in detail their alcohol consumption, listing brands purchased, prices paid and days on which products were consumed. No matter how much alcohol you say you are drinking, the diary never issues any messages of caution to the user. Even if you enter that you consumed potentially lethal amounts of alcohol, it will not highlight this risk to you.

It is clear to me that the function of this site is to provide free market research information to the drinks industry. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Dr Bobby Smyth

Clinical Lecturer in Addiction

Department of Public Health and Primary Care

Trinity College

Dublin

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