Response to Retail Ireland | IBEC concern over minimum price on alcohol

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Alcohol Action Ireland, the national independent advocate for reducing alcohol harm, today (Wednesday 28th April) notes the comment from Retail Ireland (IBEC) on the likely commencement by government of Section 11 of the Public Health Alcohol Act – minimum unit pricing for alcohol products. 

For more than a decade, IBEC – its leadership and its various sectoral representative fronts has opposed every single step by the state to implement meaningful control and regulation on alcohol whether it is price measures, promotion, placement or accurate product information. 

If Ireland is to make progress in addressing its chronic alcohol-related public health crisis that is directly killing three people a day and indirectly seven, we simply have to ensure that less alcohol is purchased.   

The greater public good far outweighs the continued protection of private commercial interest. 

There are many factors contributing to consumers choice to shop in Northern Ireland. However, currency fluctuations, VAT differential and a significant ‘cost of living’ gap remain the constant factors in such considerations, not the setting of a floor price for alcohol. 

With the introduction of MUP, the cheapest available alcohol product in Ireland will still be cheaper than those products in Northern Ireland, as demonstrated in the modified Department of Finance Tax Strategy Group presentation (July 2020). 

The latest CSO data shows Cross Border trade is valued at €458 million (CSO:2018), while 14% of that household expenditure on shopping in NI was on alcohol (€64m). The cost of alcohol-related absenteeism from the workplace is costing Irish employers €46 million alone and that’s before the untold loss of human creativity, enterprise and productivity to Irish business and society is appreciated. 

The daily weaving of living between both jurisdiction is part of everyday life; commercial transaction in one or other is determined by the immediate value of the currency and the available price. Consumer surveys such as the annual AA cross-border shopping survey demonstrates that fashion items and cosmetics feature higher than any other products in motivating such cross-border trips. 

In the final consideration, MUP will save lives, reduce harm and release scarce public resources devoted to managing chronic alcohol related harm: alcohol related inpatient healthcare accounts for 11% – €1.8 billion of all public healthcare expenditure. While at a wider societal level demands approximately €3.6 billion of health, criminal justice, education and social protection public expenditure. 

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