So stated MEAS/drinkaware.ie Chief Executive Fionnuala Sheehan in her presentation to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on health and Children recently.
She also told the Committee that the Government should seriously consider the re-introduction of the ban on below-cost selling of alcohol.
“The Groceries Order was effective in addressing below-cost selling of alcohol and its re-introduction should also be seriously considered as a way of addressing concerns relating to low-priced alcohol,” she said.
And in addressing calls for a minimum price for alcohol, she cautioned the Committee that a “thorough evaluation of the legal, technical and market/consumer impacts” of this untested measure needed to be undertaken before it is introduced. Her presentation highlighted the unintended consequences of the removal of the ban on below-cost selling of alcohol by the then Government in 2006 – which MEAS had opposed at the time.
“This evaluation has not been undertaken, but is essential to enable Government assess the merits of Minimum Pricing and to ensure unintended negative consequences”.
The MEAS Chief Executive also highlighted an anomaly in the law relating to the need for 18-20 year-olds to have ID when purchasing alcohol and told the Committee it should be made mandatory for persons purchasing alcohol to produce such ID.
“At present there is confusion at the consumer and retailer levels as to what constitutes legally-valid ID,” she stated, “The introduction of a universal ID card that would be necessary to access all State services and benefits, as well as the purchase of alcohol, would better support compliance with the laws relating to the purchase and sale of alcohol”.
Dealing with the multiplicity of regulatory codes relating to alcohol at retail level, she told the Joint Committee, “In 2008 MEAS cautioned against the introduction of an additional voluntary code (the Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland Code) to address concerns about the merchandising of alcohol in the mixed trade sector as there was already a broader code (the MEAS Code) dealing with aspects of this activity and other related promotional activities, relevant to both the on-trade and the off-trade. At that time MEAS argued for the development of the existing code rather than the introduction of a new, overlapping and potentially competing code”.