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Irish Alcohol Bill welcomed as a ground-breaking measure by European health community


The Irish Public Health (Alcohol) Bill presents a set of measures to prevent alcohol related harm, which follow latest evidence base in the field of alcohol policy and recommendations of the World Health Organization.

Both World Health Organization Global strategy to reduce harmful use of alcohol and the World Health Organization European action plan to reduce the harmful use of alcohol 2012–2020 encompass measures proposed by the Irish Bill.

Moreover, the Sustainable Development Goal 3, Goal 3. Target 3.5, with which the European Union has an obligation to comply, calls for strengthening of the prevention efforts in the area of alcohol related harm.

Europe is still the highest drinking region in the world, it should come as no surprise that a European country has taken a global lead on alcohol policy. Over the last 40 years Ireland has been among the heaviest drinkers in Europe.

“European doctors welcome the new Irish Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. It will be an important piece of legislation tackling the damage that alcohol may cause, with an emphasis on protecting children from alcohol related harm. We also support the introduction of cancer warnings on the labels to inform people about the dangers of alcohol and its proven relation to several types of cancer. These measures can serve as a good example also to other countries” said Annabel Seebohm, Secretary General of the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME).

Alcohol Bill introduces minimum unit price for alcohol; labelling of alcohol products and notices in licensed premises; restrictions on advertising and sponsorship of alcohol products; structural separation of alcohol products in mixed trading outlets and regulations of the sale and supply of alcohol products (promotions).

“The Irish Bill provides a comprehensive, well-considered and audacious response to a grave public health issue. We are convinced it will be a source of inspiration for other European countries, and act as another indication that tackling alcohol harm must remain high on the European Union’s agenda.” Sascha Marschang, Acting Director of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)

One of the most debated provisions is the obligation to provide information regarding alcohol and cancer on labels and advertisements of alcohol products. First conclusive links between alcohol and cancer were established back in 1987, yet 25 years later only 36% of EU citizens are aware of it. The message in relation to alcohol consumption in the new European Code Against Cancer is: If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake. Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention. There is no level of alcohol consumption that is safe as far as cancer is concerned.

We wholeheartedly congratulate Ireland on adopting the Bill, just like was the case with tobacco, Ireland has shown courage and resilience against industry lobbying. It came as a great disappointment to see alcohol industry following the footsteps of the tobacco industry and at times trying to deny the link between alcohol and cancer. We sincerely hope that no company or country will now sue Ireland for trying to protect the health of its citizens’’ said Mariann Skar, Secretary General of European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare).