Ireland. Drinks Industry says National Alcohol Report is a missed opportunity to address misuse

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· Average drinker faces further levies and taxes, despite declining alcohol consumption
· Lack of evidence to support key recommendations in the report
· Sponsorship ban will present major challenge for sporting and cultural organisations

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI)* has said that, while agreeing with and welcoming the majority of the recommendations contained in today’s National Substance Misuse Strategy Group publication, the report as a whole is a missed opportunity to address the very serious issue of alcohol misuse.

ABFI said that given that alcohol consumption has fallen 17% in the last decade and that this downward trend is likely to continue, an opportunity existed to introduce targeted measures aimed at those who misuse alcohol products as well as addressing binge and underage drinking.

Instead, however, today’s report includes a number of unnecessary and unworkable proposals that if implemented will hit the average consumer who enjoys alcohol responsibly, will impact on the 62,000 jobs and €2 billion in tax revenue that the drinks industry supports across the economy, and will do little or nothing to address alcohol misuse.

Key recommendations such as a ban on drinks industry sponsorship of sporting and cultural events would be extremely challenging for national and local sporting organisations. It will leave them starved of revenue for both major international fixtures and for grassroots teams and clubs, while there would also be a serious decline in major cultural events, festivals, and concerts. The reality is that there are already strict co-regulatory codes applying to how alcohol brands can market, promote and support these events.

ABFI added that the report was legally misguided in its pursuit of minimum pricing, and that the re-introduction of the ban on below cost selling would be a far more effective means of addressing the sale of cheap alcohol. ABFI also said the view of the industry had been effectively supressed by not including a minority report submitted by the Federation, alongside today’s final report.

The Director of ABFI, Kathryn D’Arcy, commented, “Ireland already has one of the highest alcohol excise and taxation regimes in Europe and our industry operates within the most regulated environment for alcohol marketing anywhere in the world. Given that we are drinking far less than we did 10 years ago we do not need further restrictions, bans and legislation in order to address misuse.

“It is the culture of binge and underage drinking that needs to be addressed, not the entirely legitimate activities of a major industry, whose products are among Ireland’s leading brands and which supports jobs, businesses and livelihoods the length and breadth of the country.

“ABFI played a full role in the National Substance Misuse Steering Group and continually called for evidence based measures to support the Group’s recommendations. While there is much to be welcomed in the report, regrettably in some key areas the failure to provide all available evidence to support the calls for restrictions, levies and bans means that we oppose a number of key recommendations.

“The fact that a decision was taken to disregard our objections as expressed in our minority report by not including it in today’s publication undermines the final report as a true reflection of what was expressed at the Group.

“Many of the key measures in this report, if taken on board, will simply penalise the average consumer who enjoys alcohol sensibly and responsibly. We will continue to bring this view to Government to ensure they take this on board when forming national alcohol policy.”