ABFI decries “lack of balance” in Alcohol Bill debate

The Alcohol Bill's measures are overly restrictive and simply won't work, the ABFI says
The Alcohol Bill's measures are overly restrictive and simply won't work, the ABFI says

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland has criticised the ongoing debate in the Oireachtas over the controversial Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, claiming that there is still need for a balanced debate "rooted in facts and evidence".

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9 November 2017 | 0

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland has criticised some of the comments made during the Seanad debate about the dreaded Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, stating that there is a need for a balanced debate about the Bill that is rooted in facts and evidence.

The ABFI said that the highly restrictive advertising proposals in the Bill are not supported by evidence, and will only serve to unfairly impact an indigenous industry that supports more than 210,000 jobs. The government has, to date, failed to meaningfully engage with the sector on the measures, the association said.

Patricia Callan, ABFI director, said that the industry fully supports measures which target alcohol abuse and underage drinking, but that it is critically important those measures are based on evidence. “There is a need for a balanced approach to the Alcohol Bill,” Callan said. “We are concerned to see the Government trying to push through legislation that contains measures that won’t work and will do very real damage to businesses in Ireland.”

The ABFI says it is calling on Health Minister Simon Harris and the Department of Health to meet with drinks manufacturers and representatives from the industry in relation to the Alcohol Bill. While Minister Harris belatedly said he will engage with small shops on the impact of the Alcohol Bill on their business, he has not said that he will meet with drinks manufacturers, including the small brewers and distillers that will be heavily impacted by this legislation. This is despite the significant economic contribution made by these businesses.

Some senators also highlighted the importance of education measures to tackle alcohol misuse. In its current state, the Alcohol Bill contains no such measures.

The ABFI adds that th Bill’s proposals are despite the fact that Ireland already has some of the strictest rules for marketing alcohol products in the world. These rules have been in place since 2003 and they work; according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol consumption in Ireland has declined by 25 per cent since 2005.

Meanwhile, research on alcohol advertising bans and their effectiveness by economist Jim Power found no evidence that advertising bans lead to reduced consumption.

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