Minimum pricing, the price below which alcohol cannot be sold, is one of the most effective policies a government can introduce in order to reduce alcohol-related harm, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This call, made initially by Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, is now being backed by a total of 27 charities and organisations including the Irish Medical Organisation, the ISPCC, the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland, the Irish Association of Suicidology and St Vincent de Paul.
According to AAI Director Fiona Ryan, many of these organisations are “dealing with the realities of alcohol-related harm in communities, families, the health system and on the streets on a daily basis”.
She said that the current price of alcohol is a “very real concern” with young people well-aware of pricing promotions. She also insisted that the marketing of alcohol, which includes pricing and advertising, does influence young people’s attitudes and drinking behaviour.
"As adults there is a danger that we look back nostalgically on our own teenage experiences, forgetting that children are drinking earlier than previous generations – the average age of first drinking is now 14 with many drinking earlier," she noted while emphasizing that alcohol is now “more widely available and more affordable than in previous generations.
"A teenager can get absolutely drunk for less than €10. A woman can reach her maximum low risk weekly limit for €7, less than one hour worked on minimum wage. Coupled with that affordability is widespread availability and an explosion of alcohol retailing – a 161 per cent increase during the boom years alone," she claimed.
However Fiona Ryan warned that this is not just an issue for young generations. People of all ages are affected and alcohol-related harm currently costs this country an estimated €3.7 billion per year. Around half of this is spent on health-related problems while the other half is spent on related crime costs.
Details of these issues were discussed at a major conference in Dublin today, entitled ‘Time Please…For Change’. Among other things, the conference heard about the situation in Canada where minimum pricing has led to a fall in alcohol consumption in areas where it was introduced, AAI claimed.