NOffLA Speaks: Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

NOffLA believes €0.70 per unit of alcohol is an appropriate minimum unit pricing structure

Association welcomes bill but says an appropriate minimum unit price of €0.70 cent per unit of alcohol, must be introduced in order to have the required impact



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12 March 2015

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NOffLA has welcomed the publication of the Heads of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. NOffLA’s government affairs director, Evelyn Jones, outlined the potential benefits of the proposed legislation, provided it is applied appropriately. “Today is an important day for communities and small businesses all across Ireland, and particularly those involved in the retail of alcohol. NOffLA has long maintained that this bill is a vital tool in addressing social health and public order issues while also encouraging a sustainable retail environment. The proposed introduction of a minimum unit price is a very positive step. However we remind government that the effectiveness of the measure is entirely dependent on the introduction of an appropriate price which we believe must be €0.70 cent per unit of alcohol to have the required impact.”

Jones specifically welcomed the government decision to introduce the structural separation of alcohol from other products, Section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008. “Structural separation will provide for the clear demarcation of alcohol from other grocery products so that they are not available to under-age purchasers. In addition, this measure will help to ensure that the purchase of alcohol is a conscious and informed decision, and not an impulse due to the strategic positioning of alcohol products in aisles and close to tills, which is in keeping with the Minister’s acknowledgment that alcohol is no ordinary product.”

The bill consists of 20 draft heads and includes provisions for:

  • Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol products
  • Health labelling of alcohol products
  • New enforcement powers for Environmental Health Officers
  • Regulation of advertising of alcohol

Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol Products

This will make it illegal to sell, or advertise for sale, alcohol at a price below a set minimum price. The minimum price will be set “at a level which evidence shows will reduce the burden of harm from alcohol”. It will be set through secondary legislation (regulation) in consultation.

Addressing the price of alcohol is an important component of any long-term strategic approach to tackling alcohol misuse. Research has shown that the price of alcohol is directly linked to consumption levels and levels of alcohol related harms and costs, i.e. as the price increases, consumption rates and harms decrease. A University of Sheffield study reported that the alcohol products most affected by this policy are those that are currently being sold very cheaply, often below cost prices, in the off-trade, i.e. in large supermarkets and multiples.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will make it illegal to sell or advertise for sale alcohol at a price below a set minimum price. Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) sets a minimum price per gram of alcohol. The minimum price of an alcohol product would be based on the number of grams of alcohol in the product. The sale price of the alcohol product, in both the on and off-trade sector, could not be below this minimum unit price.

The setting of a minimum price will be done by way of regulations, as provided for under the primary legislation and in consultation with relevant government departments. The price will be set when the bill is published and will be at a level that the evidence shows will reduce the burden of harm from alcohol.

Health labelling of alcohol products

In a bid to address a poor understanding, by the general public, of the notion of a ‘standard unit of alcohol’, the proposed legislation provides that labels on alcohol products will contain:

· Health warnings and advice (including for pregnancy)
· The amount of pure alcohol as measured in grams
· The calorie count

New enforcement powers for Environmental Health Officers

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will be enforced by Environmental Health Officers. New enforcement powers will allow these officers to enforce aspects of the legislation, including the structural separation of alcohol from other products; minimum unit pricing; health labelling; and regulations restricting advertising, promotion, sale or supply of alcohol at reduced prices or free of charge.

Regulation of advertising and marketing of alcohol

The Public (Health) Alcohol Bill will make it illegal to market or advertise alcohol in a manner that is appealing to children. It also provides for controls on the content of alcohol marketing and advertising. The existing Code of Practice for Sponsorships by Drinks Companies will be put on a legal footing with enforcement powers and penalties.

The provisions in relation to marketing and advertising will be reviewed after three years.




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