Cheap alcohol – NOffLA backs Oireachtas Justice Chairman’s call for action

A call by Fine Gael TD and Chairperson of the Oireachtas Justice Committee David Stanton for “urgent action to curtail the availability of ultra-cheap alcohol” has been welcomed as a key step in the bid to tackle the irresponsible retail and promotion of cheap alcohol by the National Off-Licence Association of Ireland.

Calling for alcohol’s availability to be limited in a much tighter way, the Cork East TD had pointed out that, “Outlets that use alcohol as loss-leader by making it available at a very low price are acting very irresponsibly and are doing terrible damage to our society.

“By allowing the sale of alcohol at ridiculously low prices in supermarkets and in many other outlets, society is facilitating, encouraging and supporting the uncontrolled and widespread consumption of alcohol.”

NOffLA Chairperson Evelyn Jones, agreed.

“I’m encouraged to see the Chair of the Justice Committee’s recognition that the retail and promotion of alcohol at ultra-cheap prices is not only extremely dangerous and irresponsible but requires immediate action,” she stated.

“NOffLA was disappointed with the delay of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and Minimum Unit Pricing to next year, but has long maintained there are many other issues that need addressing without new legislation such as the need to structurally separate alcohol from other products and enact a strict code of conduct for the sale and promotion of alcohol”.

David Staunton’s comments seemed to reflect this. He had stated,

“As a society we’ve been talking around the issue for long enough. We need to take immediate action to increase controls on the sale of alcohol. If we cannot, for legal reasons, immediately prevent alcohol being sold at dangerously low prices we should take every possible measure to curtail the availability and attractiveness of cheap alcohol.

“The advertising of special offers and promotions of cheap alcohol should be banned as soon as possible. Alcohol should be segregated in separate areas away from everyday products such as groceries. Policies should be devised to tilt the balance back toward the controlled environment of the public house and away from the ‘no limits’ culture that has developed. Bartenders should be highly trained and be aware of their responsibilities regarding the consumption of alcohol. We must put in place and enforce consequences for being drunk and disorderly that will have a real impact.”

The NOffLA Chairperson pointed out that many of the measures called for do not require new legislation.

“Structural separation of alcohol from groceries has been on the statute books since 2008 with the never-commenced section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act” she pointed out, “while the very same Act gave the Minister for Health the power to regulate the sale and promotion of alcohol in section 16, also never commenced.

“What is required, however, is the acceptance that immediate and urgent action is desperately needed, as is the political will to do what is necessary.”

David Staunton intends to ask his colleagues on the Justice Committee to consider the impact of the abuse of alcohol on public order and to press Government to take whatever action is possible to curtail the availability of cheap drink.

“It is not just the State that has a role here,” he stated, “All elements of society have a part to play. We must make it ‘uncool’ to binge-drink. At the same time we must recognise that alcohol is part of life and that prohibition has never worked. Underage drinking and binge-drinking among younger people are directly linked to the easy availability of cheap alcohol and this is where we must make an immediate start.”

Evelyn Jones concluded that the Oireachtas Justice Committee Chairman’s statement represented a key step in this process “and we look forward to working with the Justice Committee in any way we can to achieve this goal”.

In its recent Pre-Budget Submission NOffLA called on the Government to ban below-cost selling of alcohol while it was one of the signatories of an industry-wide pledge to seek to work with government to play an appropriate role in addressing issues pertaining to the misuse of alcohol.



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