Three people die in Ireland every day as a result of alcohol misuse. Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer, including those of the liver, colon, and breast in women. Alcohol is a factor in one in 10 deaths before the age of 50.
Despite these worrying statistics, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland [RCPI] is concerned that there is a lack of awareness of the damage that alcohol causes to health. Professor Frank Murray, RCPI president, says that every family is effected by alcohol misuse today, but that the new Public Health (Alcohol ) Bill can reduce health harms in the country: “Every family is affected by alcohol. Our harmful relationship with alcohol damages men, women, and children.
“The Public Health (Alcohol ) Bill contains many evidence-based initiatives, primarily setting a minimum unit price for alcohol that targets those who drink large volumes of high strength cheap alcohol.”
Beverages with high alcohol content can be purchased in off-licences today at a very modest cost. Minimum unit pricing will set a higher selling price on such a product in the hope of reducing its attractiveness to people, and in turn reducing the harm it can cause their health.
“Minimum unit pricing has the potential to quickly reduce the number of people attending hospital and the numbers of deaths, incidents, and accidents in Ireland,” Professor Murray says. “Every night 1,500 hospital beds are occupied as a result of alcohol, putting an unsustainable burden on the health services.”
Professor Murray says the Bill will also bring in new labelling that can help consumers to make better choices about alcohol: “It will help them to assess the health risks, the units of alcohol being consumed, and the amount of calories contained in various drinks,” he says. “This Bill, which will shortly come through the Houses of the Oireachtas, deserves to be supported.
“Surveys show how public health initiatives that were fiercely resisted by tobacco companies have been a resounding success in reducing deaths and smoking rates in Ireland. We have an opportunity to make similar strides in reducing the health harms of alcohol.”