Retailers concerned about impact a total ban on alcoholic beverages within the grocery sector would exert on their businesses
Feb 15 2012
Dr. Tony Holohan, chief medical officer and chairman of the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group, with Minister of State with responsibility for Primary Care and Drugs Strategy, Roisin Shortall at the launch of the report of the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group
Retailers have reacted with dismay to a new government report which proposes a total ban on the sale of alcohol in supermarkets, convenience shops and petrol stations.
The Joint Committee on Health and Children on 24 January published 'The Misuse of Alcohol and Other Drugs' report. This noted binge and problem drinking is costing the State over €3.5bn a year, and that children are now starting to drink at an average age of 14 compared to 16 just a decade ago.
Committee chair and Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer said the outright ban proposed was needed to reduce the widespread availability of alcohol.
The report follows hearings with more than two dozen stakeholders and includes 13 recommendations that are currently being studied by Junior Health Minister Roisin Shortall.
Among them are calls for a ban on alcohol advertising before 9pm and on social networking sites as well as a ban on ads promoting special alcohol discounts.
The report also recommends a ban on the delivery of alcohol to homes from retailers and calls for minimum pricing.
While Alcohol Action Ireland welcomed the report, retailers are understandably concerned about the impact of a complete ban on their businesses.
One Dublin retailer who did not wish to be named said: “This would have a drastic effect, which would cause people to lose their jobs and the government to lose out in taxes.”
He stated the government “has already done a massive amount of damage” in reducing the hours that alcohol can be sold, adding that the move didn’t improve Ireland’s problem with underage drinking.
“The issue will not be solved apart from through education, which starts at home,” said the retailer, who believes banning alcohol from c-stores will merely “fuel the black market”.
Cathal Talty of Talty’s Mace in Lisseycasey, Ennis, said: “It is a worry because we have invested a lot in purchasing the off-licence department.
“All the staff have been well trained and know the law in terms of asking for ID. If retailers are not following the law, then stronger punishments could be introduced. But if retailers are trading responsibly, why should they be punished?”
Convenience Store and Newsagents Association (CSNA) chief executive Vincent Jennings told ShelfLife that he was “resolutely flummoxed” by the proposal which was based upon “no science or logic.”
While he believes below-cost alcohol sales should be tackled, he said he “absolutely rejects the notion that retailers who operate within the law and train staff correctly should be deprived [this revenue].”
It is “time for a full debate” on the issue with all the relevant parties involved, he added.