Drinks industry rejects implications of CSO spend figures

Dr Bobby Smyth: “It is certainly grossly disingenuous of ABFI to claim that consumption is falling”.
Dr Bobby Smyth: “It is certainly grossly disingenuous of ABFI to claim that consumption is falling”.

CSO figures released recently demonstrate that people are spending more on alcohol than they did this time last year due to the VAT and excise increases in last year’s budget and not because they’re consuming more, as has been suggested by some health commentators, ABFI has suggested.



4 September 2013

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“Consumption of alcohol is not increasing in this country, contrary to claims and misinformation put forward by lobby groups,” stated the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland as ABFI Director Kathryn D’Arcy,  “Some people are playing fast and loose with the facts in order to further their own cause. It’s very important that we don’t lose sight of the facts in this debate.
“The reality is that alcohol consumption has fallen by 20% since the peak of 2001 and is continuing to decline – fact,” she stated, “We are now consuming in line with European norms – fact. The price of alcohol in Ireland is the second highest in the EU after Finland – fact (source Eurostat).
“According to reports by both the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and UNICEF, Irish teens are drinking less than they were in recent years – fact.
“The price of alcohol in Ireland is 62% higher than the EU average (Source: Eurostat June 2013) – fact.

“Our wine excise is the highest in Europe. Tax on cider is the second-highest in the EU. Tax on spirits is the third-highest in Europe and taxes on beer are the fourth highest in the EU.
“The drinks industry is always open to debate and would welcome an opportunity to engage with Government and the anti-drinks lobby in order to consider steps that will address alcohol misuse in this country in an effective, research-based manner,” she added.

Kathryn D’Arcy also rejected claims by Dr Bobby Smyth on RTE’s Morning Ireland that consumption of alcohol declined dramatically on account of the recession and has not declined since then.

“This is untrue,” she told Drinks Industry Ireland, “Alcohol consumption in Ireland has been declining since 2001, long before the recession in this country. It has declined by 19.1% since 2001. The reality is that we are now consuming alcohol in line with European norms.”

However Dr Bobby Smyth of Alcohol Action Ireland rebutted these claims. He told Drinks Industry Ireland that figures for per capita consumption based on The Report of The Steering Group on the National Substance Misuse Strategy, “… a group on which both ABFI and MEAS were represented…” and based on a DIGI report earlier this year, show consumption peaked in 2000-2002 having risen progressively for the preceding 30 years.

Consumption fell by about 8% in 2002-2003 which could largely be attributed to a fall in spirits consumption and coincided with a rise in excise on spirits, he said, adding that consumption remained static in 2003-2007 and fell by 16% over a two-year period from 2007 to 2009 “… at the start of this recession” to its low-point in recent times of 11.3 litres over 15 years.

“Since 2009 it has risen very marginally” he said, “to now settle at about 11.7 and it is certainly grossly disingenuous of ABFI to claim that consumption is falling.”

He went on to state, “Other facts that are inconvenient to ABFI’s lobbying position include the following: Europeans are the heaviest drinkers in the world; if every adult drinker in the country consumed the maximum amount within Department of Health low risk guidelines every week (ie 210ml alcohol for men and 140ml for women) of the year, our per capita consumption would be under 7.5 litres per person aged 15-plus. Our current per capita consumption is over 50% above this; the majority of young adults (18-24 both male and female) in Ireland use alcohol in a hazardous manner (My World survey 2012), 66% of young males and 57% of young females had an abnormal score on the AUDIT questionnaire.

“Therefore while the situation is not as dreadful as it was in 2000-2002, at which point drinks industry lobby groups were also opposed to efforts to curtail per capita consumption, further measures are required to push per capita consumption well below its current level.”

He concluded, “I am fairly certain that Excise on beer is now the same in 2013 as it was in the 1990s”.

And NOffLA Chairperson Evelyn Jones gave the CSO figures a different twist.

“The spend on alcohol may have increased but this has been confined to supermarkets where people are able to purchase alcohol as if it were an ordinary grocery product which clearly it is not,” she said, “In Ireland, there are no legal requirements regarding where alcohol is located within a supermarket which means it can be placed beside such things as nappies, children’s products and hardware. It’s clear to see that the purchase of alcohol is not a conscious decision and this enables the consumer to subconsciously bury their alcohol spend in their grocery budget.

“The only way to rectify this problem is to enact Section 9 of the Intoxicating liquor Act which would require supermarkets to structurally separate alcohol from other non-alcoholic products. This area should have a separate till and be manned by a trained staff member and in effect offer the same tight controls as an independent off-licence. Individuals would have to make a conscious decision to enter this area to purchase alcohol. It would also mean that children aren’t being confronted with alcohol every time they enter a supermarket,” she concluded.

Dr Bobby Smyth: “It is certainly grossly disingenuous of ABFI to claim that consumption is falling”.

Dr Bobby Smyth: “It is certainly grossly disingenuous of ABFI to claim that consumption is falling”.



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