Thursday, October 24, 2013

Alcohol Strategy will help us tackle youth binge drinking

Fine Gael Meath East TD and member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Regina Doherty, has said the new Alcohol Misuse Strategy, as published by the Government today (Thursday), gives us the tools to tackle our unhealthy relationship with alcohol and cut down on binge drinking.

“Alcohol abuse has had a pervasive effect on Irish society for decades. We can no longer afford to shrug off our bad habits as some sort of Irish-ism. While this new Alcohol Strategy is far from a panacea, it is a very positive first step on the road towards improving and moderating our relationship with alcohol. 

“By setting a minimum price for alcohol, significantly restricting advertising and introducing health labelling on drink products, we can set about changing the way we treat and think about alcohol. By limiting advertising in particular, we can reduce the exposure of our young people to various marketing ploys used by major companies to ingrain loyalty to specific brands and reduce the association of alcohol with particular activities.

“At a time when we continue to face extremely difficult budgetary decisions in relation to our health service, it is only right that we tackle head on a problem which is costing us €1.2 billion a year. At least 2,000 beds are being taken up in Irish hospitals every night due to alcohol-related problems, and alcohol is considered to be a contributory factor in half of all suicides and self-harm attempts. And it’s not just our health services which suffer; alcohol-related crime also costs in the region of €1.2 billion a year. 

“Irish children are taking their first drink at an increasingly young age, and price mark downs by major retailers has meant that drink with a very high alcohol content has become extremely affordable in recent years. Setting a minimum price ensures that the stronger the alcohol, the more it costs. This should act as a barrier to young people, particular young teens, from buying cheap bottles of vodka and other spirits, and exposing themselves to untold risks. 

“Today’s strategy is, in my view, a first step. We must constantly monitor our progress in this area, and for that reason I am glad that an annual progress report is to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. We need to bring about a generational shift in drinking habits. By reducing the rate at which young people are exposed to alcohol advertising, we can gradually rebalance our attitude to drink, so that future generations can make safe, more sensible, and healthier decisions about how they consume alcohol.”

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