Alcohol abuse not in best interests of the industry

IN his letter (August 4) Bobby Smyth accuses the drinks industry of deception and dishonesty in our efforts to promote a more responsible attitude to alcohol consumption in Ireland.

I wish to re-emphasise why alcohol misuse is not in the best interests of the drinks industry and what we are doing to address it.

Alcohol abuse is a serious problem in Ireland: it is profoundly damaging to the abusers and their families.

The anti-social behaviour which can be associated with alcohol misuse and the burdens being placed on our health service are far beyond what should be acceptable in a civilised society.

The drinks industry has an interest in selling its products. It should be obvious it is not in the interests of the industry to see its products abused.

The industry manufactures products of international renown, spends considerable sums promoting its brands responsibly and can hardly remain sanguine as those who abuse its products undermine all it tries to achieve. There is no advantage to us in making profits today from behaviour that is not acceptable to society in the longer term. That is why the drinks industry here is putting so much of its energy into promoting the sensible consumption of alcohol.

The industry wholeheartedly supports any effort to address the causes and consequences of alcohol misuse. Whether it is the opening of a treatment centre or the launch of an educational campaign, we recognise that overcoming the problems of misuse must be a whole-of-society effort involving the state, the industry, schools, parents and individuals.

We are playing our part in that effort. The reason we fund campaigns and work in partnership with government is because we recognise that Ireland does have a high level of misuse.

This threatens our industry by provoking further restrictions and regulations on our ability to trade, something that is entirely contradictory to our interests.

For that reason we have provided funding for the Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society (MEAS). Their highly visible and informative online campaign — www.drinkaware.ie — is designed to educate young people about alcohol so that they can make informed choices about their consumption.

We have also agreed a strict series of advertising codes with the Government that ensure all our marketing efforts are not directed at young people and are entirely appropriate to a general audience.

We will continue to play our part in addressing misuse because it is in our interests and because it is the right thing to do.

But in doing so, we are only part of a wider network of health services, state agencies and educational groups that similarly has a role to play.

Rosemary Garth

Director

Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland

Confederation House

Dublin 2

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