Thursday, December 15, 2011

Statutory regulations needed to combat below cost alcohol - Doherty

Fine Gael TD, Regina Doherty, has said that statutory regulations are needed to address the ongoing problem of the below cost selling of alcohol, particularly in large supermarkets which use alcohol as a loss maker to attract customers.

“This is a complex area, which I feel very strongly about. There are a number of elements of this problem which we need to examine individually; namely alcohol marketing, pricing and availability. Alcohol consumption has risen rapidly in this country in recent years as a direct consequence of the widespread availability of cheap drink.

“Alcohol abuse is having a hugely detrimental effect on our society. Alcohol causes about 100 deaths per month, accounts for a third of all emergency department attendances and about 7% of GP visits. The impact on our younger generations is even starker; one in four deaths of young men is due to alcohol. That is a shocking and deeply disturbing statistic, and I believe there is an onus on the Government to tackle this issue head on.

“It should come as little surprise that we have such a spiralling problem with alcohol in this country, when one considers the proliferation of cheap drink in major supermarkets. 80% of all wine is sold in supermarkets. How can we stand over a system that allows two bottles of wine to be sold for €5? Price is just one part of the problem; we also need to look at the marketing of alcohol. Major retailers are investing large sums of money to advertise below cost alcohol, simply to get customers in the door. They appear to be taking no responsibility for the consequences of these actions.

“I understand that a Steering Group, set up within the Department of Health is due to report back to the Minister in the coming weeks, and I am encouraged by comments from Minister of State, Roisin Shorthall, that she will consider introducing a minimum price for alcohol. We need a comprehensive policy approach to this issue, and I would hope that statutory regulations could be introduced to sufficiently police this area. We cannot continue to close our eyes to the devastating damage alcohol is having on our society.”

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