The Federation strongly believes that a minimum price for alcohol and tighter regulations around how alcohol is promoted and sold would go a long way towards tackling binge-drinking.
However, it has warned that a blanket increase in excise is not the best method and the focus should be on cheap alcohol often sold as a loss-leader by multiples and which is made easily available and promoted in a wholly irresponsible way.
“We welcome this debate on alcohol pricing but driving up the price of drink across the board is not the answer,” stated VFI President Gerry Mellett, “The focus must be on those who deliberately push down the price of drink such as the supermarkets that offer volume-led promotions and sell alcohol like bananas or cornflakes on special offers which only encourages irresponsible consumption.
“Well over half of the alcohol sold in Ireland is now sold outside of the pub, often in the uncontrolled environment of the supermarkets. It’s no coincidence that the increase in underage drinking, binge-drinking and associated social and health problems as outlined in this week’s HSE report has occurred in parallel to the steady increase in off-trade sales.”
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben added, “Ireland already has very high alcohol excise taxes. Only Finland, the UK and Sweden have higher taxes on alcohol than Ireland and our beer excise is almost eight times that of Germany. If higher excises were the cure, then we would currently have no problem.
“Any more tax increases would make us totally unattractive to tourists and make the price of drink substantially higher than all other EU economies. From a tourism perspective, increasing excise on alcohol will drive the price of alcohol up in restaurants, pubs and hotels and would not assist the current successful drives to attract visitor numbers to Ireland.
“The focus must specifically be on those selling cheap alcohol and agreeing a minimum price rather than a broad sweep of excise increases.”