Addressing the Oireachtas Health Committee on the impact of alcohol advertising on younger people, the Director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), Kathryn D’Arcy, said that in the context of rapidly declining alcohol consumption, the co-regulatory codes of practice that govern alcohol marketing remain the best way of ensuring that all alcohol advertising is appropriate, responsible and does not appeal in any way to minors.
She said that given the success of the codes – as independently verified – they should remain in place as opposed to the introduction of restrictive, inflexible and impractical legislation.
Minimum pricing was also discussed at the meeting and ABFI fully supports a re-introduction of the ban on below-cost selling as a much more effective, practical and implementable measure to address the sale of cheap alcohol.
Kathryn D’Arcy also said that ABFI had played a full and constructive role on the Government’s National Substance Misuse Strategy Group over the last two years and noted the importance of having the drinks industry present on the Group with a role to play in addressing alcohol misuse.
She commented, “With alcohol consumption declining rapidly to the extent that we are now back to mid-1990s levels, the Government should maintain the codes of practice governing all alcohol marketing, advertising and sponsorship that have been established in partnership with the industry. These codes cover the content, placement, volume and promotion of alcohol marketing and communications and ensure that we do not in any way appeal to minors or encourage misuse through strict guidelines and standards.
“These codes are much more effective than blanket legislation, which would not be able to control all media or advertising broadcast into Ireland from overseas.”
She continued, “We recognise the legitimate concerns that exist regarding the sale of low price alcohol. However, minimum pricing is a questionable measure from both a legal and public health perspective.
“We believe the Government could address this issue through the reintroduction of the ban on the below-cost selling of alcohol that was removed in 2005 and which was opposed by the drinks industry at the time.
“Today’s meeting provided us with the opportunity to engage with members of the Committee on the drinks industry’s position on these and other key issues and our positive work on the National Substance Misuse Strategy Group that has recently completed its work. It is important that the drinks industry is part of any discussion on national alcohol policy. We must be part of any solution in addressing alcohol misuse.”
Chairman of the Committee on Health and Children Jerry Buttimer TD concluded, "Today’s meeting was an opportunity for the Committee to address the serious concerns of Members regarding alcohol misuse. It was a welcome surprise that there was some degree of common ground among all three groups about the need to address the issue of alcohol pricing. However there are significant differences on how best to implement any such policy. Suggestions included a re-introduction of the groceries order for alcohol only, banning below-cost selling, minimum prices based on alcohol content and taxation changes.
“There is a clear willingness in the Committee to work in a cross-party manner to address the issue of substance misuse. Over the coming weeks the Committee will continue to focus and prioritise the issues of alcohol use, marketing and pricing. At the end of this period it is our intention to prepare a comprehensive report on our deliberations. It is my intention that our report will assist the Government in its plans to address the problem of alcohol misuse in a comprehensive way?"