Alcohol Bill heading for closure

As the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill heads to another session in the Dáil tomorrow, Wednesday, it’s expected that it will finally complete Report & Final Stages which means that it will have completed the legislative process through the Dáil.

It may have to return to the Seanad very briefly to take account of alterations to certain amendments but essentially, it is very near to finishing its passage through both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Department of Health will now have to draw up the legislative provisions to be included in the Bill and these will then have to be notified to the EU. If the EU clears the Department of Health’s provisions, there will be a ‘lead-in’ time (in the case of the labelling provisions, this will be three years). During the Bill’s last outing in the Dáil Fianna Fáil’s Health spokesman Stephen Donnelly told the Chamber recently that he’d been unaware of the link between alcohol and cancer when he’d first heard about the amendment to the Bill to include cancer warnings on alcohol products.During the Bill’s last outing in the Dáil, As a result, he’d questioned the amendment until undertaking some research and the results “shook me,” he stated in the most recent debate on the Bill. He pointed out that about 500 people a year die from alcohol-related cancers, “about three times the number of people who die on the roads and that’s a number that gets a huge amount of investment and warnings and rightly so. “The idea that we’re in the area of rashers and burnt toast or that you have to be drinking 10 pints a day (to get cancer) is not true,” he stated in last week’s four-hour debate over the Bill. In the end, the cancer amendment was not put to a vote. The Bill is now set to continue this coming Wednesday with the Dáil having accepted an amendment that duty-free alcohol for sale at airports would be exempt from label warnings but not from poster warnings. In the recent Dáil debate on the issue, the Minister for Health Simon Harris stated that the argument was whether it was better in primary legislation or regulation, as regulation might be less likely to be challenged by the EU Commission. The EU Commission will have final say on the issue but if accepted by the EC, a three-year waiting period will commence before the new rules would apply. “It might be a good idea to put a warning on a little bit of a label that alcohol can cause cancer,” added the Minister. In an editorial on the matter The Irish Times referred to the “tenacity of the drinks industry in protecting its profits at the expense of public health” which the newspaper described as having been “single-minded”. It also pointed out that, “Ireland would be the first country to introduce such a warning on domestic sales and the transnational industry is concerned that other countries may follow suit”.  

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