Following the most recent outcry over ‘Neknomination’ fatalities, he wrote in the Irish Independent recently that, “Delivering the kind of action that will have real impact requires more than a periodic outcry. It calls for public support and the implementation of policy choices that some will find difficult, or even objectionable. There is no easy way here”.
He pointed out that on top of new Minimum Unit Pricing legislation on cheap drink with high ABVs the Government will also restrict off-licence sales promotions.
A Department of Health group is meeting this week to move along the process with the aim of publishing new legislation by the Summer and having it passed by the end of the year.
The package of measure includes provision for Minimum Unit Pricing, more restrictions on alcohol marketing and advertising, regulations on labelling (including calorie counts and health warnings) as well as other instruments, all part of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.
“Alcohol products will in future have to be displayed in a separate area to other products in mixed retail stores and supermarkets, making them less visible to children,” he wrote, “We will cover this initially through a statutory code rather than through the current voluntary approach.”
No final decision has been taken yet on the proposal to phase out alcohol sponsorship of major sporting events but he remains firmly convinced that this should be done.
“Some of these measures will be controversial and will be opposed by the drinks industry, who are, of course, fully entitled to express their views,” the Minister stated.
UK moves on discounting
Across the water, the UK government is to ban the sale of alcohol discounting in supermarkets in England and Wales, a practice that has made beer cheaper than water.
The move, which comes into force on 6th April, will ban below-cost sales of alcohol with cost defined as ‘duty plus VAT’.
With the exemption of Low Alcohol beers (less than 1.2% ABV) this will result in the elimination of cans of beer being sold for under 50 pence or bottles of wine being sold for less than £2.24 or bottles of vodka and other spirits for less than £10.16. Duty-free sales will also be exempt.
The Home Office has explained that a ban will be imposed through the introduction of a mandatory licensing condition on everyone selling alcohol including small off-licences.
“Banning the sale of alcohol below duty plus VAT will stop the worst examples of very cheap and harmful drink,” commented Home Office Minister Norman Baker, “It is part of a wide range of action we’re taking including challenging the drinks industry to play a greater role in tackling alcohol abuse.”