Will the government be able to extricate the country from the economic effects of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, should it go ahead? That remains to be seen. But before all is finalised let’s just take a brief foray across its more salient consequences.
There are four main features to the Bill which can be broadly broken down into MUP, retailing/structural separation, advertising and labelling. It’s all but the first that will be of greatest concern to the drinks industry and to jobs.
With alcohol consumption here down 25% since 2005 according to WHO figures, Ireland now ranks 18th in the EU. It was ninth in 2005. Underage drinking is down 48% in 20 years. Drinking alcohol is partaken of by 16% of teens today. The EU average is 24%. Binge-drinking was down 7% in 2016 compared to 2015.
So with all that’s going on economically at the moment, is this really the time to enforce totally unfounded-in-fact and zealous advertising restrictions or labelling restrictions which put the retailing brakes on our ability to sell nationally and export internationally, already challenge enough in itself?
Perhaps the labelling restrictions represent the least thought-out aspect of the Bill. These will, in effect, ensure an ‘Irish only’ label for all Ireland’s alcohol products, further handicapped by sensational health warnings.
The unforeseen results of implementing this Bill in its present format will include a falling-away of innovation in Ireland, an additional burden on our ability to market our world-famous drinks, plummeting international investment in our drinks sector, in festivals and in sports events and – inevitably – loss of jobs.
In advertising, there’s precious little left to advertise once scenes of conviviality, alcohol consumption, pub/bar scenes, landscapes, animals, animation and people are removed from the equation.
But the Bill also proposes putting restrictions on all print media including publications printed outside Ireland but which are sold within the Irish state. How will that work then?
If such poorly researched legislation is to be married to the drinks industry going forward, we’ll all live to repent it at our leisure.
We’d suggest you use the January lull to contact your TDs…
In the meantime, we wish all our readers a peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.