Considerable concern over Bill Amendments

It seems likely that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will be debated the Dail next month if the Government is not too busy with the minutae of a referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

A number of amendments to the Bill have now been introduced (and passed by the Seanad last November) to the final version for Dail debate (and possibly more amendments) which are of concern to both manufacturers and retailers of alcohol.

One of these is the stipulation that the label on alcohol containers must include “a warning that is intended to inform the public of the direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers”.

Another stipulates “at least one third of the printed material will be given over to evidence-based health warnings”.

The much-debated ‘structural separation’ for smaller retail outlets has also been subject to an amendment which now states that advertisements for alcohol products “and the exposure for sale of alcohol products are exclusively confined to one or more enclosed storage units (which shall be adjacent to each other) in the premises to which the off-licence is attached” and “The maximum height of each of which shall be 2.2 metres and each of which shall, to a height of not less than 1.5 metres from the lowest point of the unit, be made of a material through which alcohol products and advertisements for alcohol products are not visible when the unit concerned is closed”.

The Bill also states that there will not be more than three storage units with a maximum width of one metre.

This last amendment was agreed after consulting with representatives from the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association which included the CSNA’s Chief Executive Vincent Jennings where it was acknowledged that the Bill required further changes to be made to accommodate the needs of small retailers.

“It was agreed at the meeting that we’d make individual submissions to the Department regarding specific proposals, with a view to amending the Bill,” Vincent Jennings told Drinks Industry Ireland.

The CSNA had presented the Government with an 80,000-signature petition in seeking amendments to the more stringent ‘structural separation’ requirements contained in Section 20 of the original Bill. The Government subsequently introducd a number of amendments which would permit access to be via a turnstile or other barrier so that consumers would understand clearly that they were now entering an area selling alcohol.

But other Amendments introduced into the Bill are presently subject to a great deal of lobbying from the industry who’re concerned about the employment and export implications of such Amendments in the absence of any supporting evidence that these will reduce alcohol abuse.

The latest figures from the lobbying register indicate that the industry has extensively lobbied government ministers, TDs and Senators about the Bill.

Industry Lobbyists have included ABFI who’d meetings with 14 government Ministers and Ministers of State as well as 10 special advisors about the Alcohol Bill.


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