Such a move would also help reduce the €3.7 billion bill for alcohol-related harm each year, it claimed.
Alcohol Action Ireland’s Director Fiona Ryan stated, “At a time when we need to do more with less, we cannot afford the current price of cheap alcohol. Alcohol-related harm costs us an estimated €3.7 billion each year which works out at a bill of €3,318 for every tax-payer in the country.
“Our health services spend €1.2 billion each year – about 10 per cent of the current health budget – treating alcohol-related illnesses and accidents while alcohol-related crime and public order costs us a further €1.2billion.
“According to the Chief Medical Officer of Ireland, a 30 per cent reduction in alcohol-related harm would result in a cost-saving to the Exchequer of €1 billion.”
The World Health Organisation has put alcohol as the third-highest risk factor for death and disability in developed countries and stated that price and availability of alcohol are the two key policy areas to tackle if governments want to be effective in reducing alcohol-related harm, she added.
“As a country, we’re being asked to make very tough Budget choices that will shape our country for years to come yet alcohol and its cost to the economy does not seem to be on the agenda. Last year, the Government cut excise duty on alcohol potentially depriving the country of €182 million in much-needed tax revenue.
“Remarkably, over the past 15 years there have only been three increases in excise duty on alcohol. These included cider (2001), spirits (2002) and wine (October 2008), with the last excise duty increase on beer as far back as 1994.
“Meanwhile, alcohol has become more than 50 per cent more affordable in Ireland than it was 15 years ago. It is now possible for a woman to reach her weekly low risk drinking limit for €6.30 and a man for under €10. We are all paying a high price for cheap alcohol.
“Between 1995 and 2004, the number of patients admitted to our hospitals with liver-related conditions increased by 147 per cent while alcohol-related deaths almost doubled.
“Today, alcohol is responsible for 100 deaths per month, 2,000 beds occupied every night in hospitals around the country, 30 per cent of emergency department attendances and seven per cent of GP consultations.
“Alcohol Action Ireland is urging the Government to support these proposals, as a restoration of alcohol excise duty to 2009 levels and the introduction of minimum pricing will each contribute significantly to reducing the damage and costs of alcohol-related harms.”