People before Profit Spokesperson, Brid Smith, has claimed that the government’s proposed measures on tackling alcohol misuse are ‘grossly inadequate’.
In a statement she said,
‘The most harmful drug in Ireland is not marijuana or even heroin. In terms of the numbers affected and damage to health it is alcohol.
‘An Analysis of Alcohol Consumption in Ireland in 2013 published by the Health Research Board showed that half of drinkers can be classified as harmful drinkers.
‘This is the context for the promised introduction into the Dail of A Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. However its proposed measures reflect the general neo-liberal mindset that is at the heart of this government.
There is no attempt to tackle the power of the alcohol industry which has used the insidious methods to equate Irishness with drinking. ‘Ireland is, of course, Guinness’ original and spiritual home’ a marketing manager of Guinness once claimed.
A key element of this is the creation of images with link sport, fun and the craic with drink.
‘This mechanism was recognised in an Oireachtas Joint Committee Report on Alcohol Misuse by Young People, over ten years ago. It called for:
A complete ban on all alcohol advertising within a three year period and a complete ban on acknowledgement or credit, including use of logos or labels, for sponsorship of sports events, clubs or teams for members under 25 years of age, by any area of the alcoholic drinks industry’
‘Initially, the Department of Health responded by drawing up an Alcohol Product Bill for presentation in the Dail in 2005. The Alcohol industry responded by hiring lobbying agency, MRPA Kinman, to oppose the bill. The chair of MRPA Kinman was – by pure co-incidence – married to the then Health Minister, Mary Harney. And, lo and behold, the bill was withdrawn and replaced with a ‘voluntary code.’
‘Leo-Varadkhar intends to continue this tradition by refusing to ban sponsorship by the alcohol industry of sporting events. His excuse is that many sporting clubs would be destroyed if there was a lack of financial ‘support’ from the drinks industry.
‘Which only begs the question: why is there not proper public funding for sporting and cultural activity in Ireland? Why should these activities have to depend on companies which are no better than drug pushers to survive?
‘Maybe the lack of funding has much to do with a low tax model. If corporations like Diago were forced to pay a minimum effective corporation tax of 12.5 % -and not just a pretend rate- there would be plenty of funding for sport and cultural events.
‘Varadkhar proposes instead is to impose price increases on minimum units of alcohol. One effect will be to push up the price of a cheap bottle of wine.
‘While a number of professional bodies have supported this minimum pricing policy, there are major problems with it.
‘The approach relies on market mechanisms to tackle a fundamental social problem. It assumes that people are simply calculating animals that will change behaviour based an increase of a few euros on their products. But the point about addiction is that people sometimes spend money on drugs like alcohol to the detriment of other aspects of their lives.
‘Moreover, the increase in prices directly hits the poor. It fits with an elitist attitude that they are poor because they waste their money on drink and need to be punished accordingly.
‘To tackle its alcohol problem, Ireland needs proper intervention to control the alcohol industry. There should be a ban on sports on and cultural sponsorship. Companies like Heiniken should be driven out of universities and not allowed to sponsor special drinks events for students.
‘Nor should they be allowed to sponsor research into alcohol behaviour – as occurred in the UCD Geary Institute.
‘There should be a proper ‘harm reduction’ public education programme to warn people of the danger of excessive drinking.
For Confirmation contact Brid on 087 9090166