Fine Gael Mayo TD, John O’Mahony, has said that the report on alcohol and drug misuse published by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, “provides a blueprint on how we can tackle our national drink problem”.
“As a society, we cannot continue to ignore our chronic drink problem and the effects alcohol abuse is having on our health, our economy and our national wellbeing. This report, which is the culmination of three months of work by the committee, puts forward a series of recommendations on how we can tackle this problem head on.
“Reducing the consumption of alcohol can only be achieved by addressing pricing and availability. We are now in a situation in Ireland where cheap alcohol is widely available, with large retailers selling drink at below cost, displaying a total disregard for the impact this is having on society.
“Advertising is a key element in this situation; the committee is recommending a ban on advertising of discounted alcoholic products, as well as the introduction of a watershed, so no alcohol advertising could be aired on TV before 9pm. The advertisement of alcohol on social networking sites should also be looked at, considering the popularity and influence of these sites among young people.
“On the issue of availability, the committee has proposed that an outright ban should be considered, to prevent alcohol being sold in a wide range of outlets; this could include the sale of alcoholic products alongside groceries, confectionery, and food.
“A number of other proposals have been put forward, including the ending of VAT refunds on below-cost sales, and banning the delivery of alcoholic products to consumers homes – a practice which has given underage teens easy access to drink. The prospect of introducing a minimum price for alcohol was also explored by the committee.
“The statistics speak for themselves; alcohol is responsible for approximately 100 deaths per month, it accounts for 2,000 beds being occupied every night in hospitals around the country, and three out of every 10 emergency department attendances. Furthermore, one in four deaths in young men is due to alcohol. We need to change our attitude to drink in this country. For too long we have happily accepted a reputation of being a heavy-drinking society. This needs to change.”