The Minister pointed this out in a recent interview on RTE, adding that while it would be desirable to ban alcohol companies’ sponsorship of sports, it could only be done if this was practicable and another sponsor had been found.
Together with the Minister for Primary Care, Social Care & Mental Health Kathleen Lynch, he has published 25 priorities for the Department of Health for this year.
These include the introduction of Public Health Bills for alcohol as well as for the sale & licensing for sale of tobacco.
Other government departments such as the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport and the Department of the Taoiseach have also contributed to government discussions on the subject.
In response to Drinks Industry Ireland’s enquiries about the new Bill, the Department of Health stated, “The Government has approved an extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse to be incorporated in a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.
“These measures are based on the recommendations contained in the Steering Group Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy, 2012. The package of measures to be implemented will include provision for Minimum Unit Pricing, regulation of the marketing and advertising of alcohol, regulation of sports sponsorship, structural separation of alcohol from other products in mixed trading outlets and labelling of alcohol products.
“A General Scheme of a Bill will be published early this year,” it concluded.
A Cabinet Sub-Committee discussed alcohol legislation at a meeting earlier this week where it emerged that while a ban on alcohol companies sponsoring sports seemed unlikely to be adopted, nevertheless a voluntary set of rules around the sponsorship of sports is likely to be given the power of legal enforcement while the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing seems likely now.
The National Off-Licence Association welcomed news of the Minister’s intention to proceed with the introduction of MUP, but emphasised, “MUP is not an answer in itself, but one part of a suite of proposed measures.
“If MUP is approved at European level it will only be effective if the unit price set by the Minister is high enough to curb the deep discounting of both branded and non-branded alcohol,” the Association told Drinks Industry Ireland, “It’s also important to note that the selected MUP must be effective across all categories of alcohol, allowing for the differing strengths eg wine, spirits and beers.
“Minimum pricing set incorrectly will give the appearance of action without the required reaction, namely a reduction in alcohol abuse.”
The news on MUP comes as a report is published in the US which finds that under-age drinkers are more likely to choose alcohol brands that sponsor sports, music and entertainment events.
The Minister, who cited Ireland as coming second in the world in terms of binge-drinking, is keen to have the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill published this year.