Alcohol Action Ireland welcomes ending of promotions that incentivise alcohol use

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Alcohol Action Ireland – the national independent advocate for reducing alcohol harm, today (Friday, 8th January) welcomes the legal commencement of Section 23 of the Public Health Alcohol Act. From Monday, 11th January these regulations will apply to some promotions that incentivise alcohol use.  

The introduction of these regulations is part of a process to de-normalise alcohol as an ordinary grocery product; last November saw the legal commencement of separation of alcohol products in specified licensed premises. 

The application of these regulations will ensure that the awarding of loyalty card points or similar type points on the purchase of alcohol products will now be prohibited. 

Other alcohol promotions and special offers will be illegal from Monday, 11th January 2021 including: 

  • Promotions that allow for alcoholic drinks to be sold at a reduced price or given away for free when bought alongside other products 
  • Short term price promotions where the price of an alcoholic drink is reduced for a period of less than 3 days 

Commenting on this development, Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications at Alcohol Action Ireland, said: 

We welcome this latest step on what is a very long journey to implementing the Public Health Alcohol Act; the operation of these regulations now ensures that people are not further incentivised, or rewarded, for using alcohol.  

In practice, with so much alcohol now purchased in the retail landscape, these regulations will act as a small impediment to encouraging greater use and so contribute to reducing alcohol harm. Crucially, the ending of short-term promotion, so evident throughout the supermarket multiples, will bring some reason to what has been truly reckless price reductions on alcohol.  

The fundamental action that is required next is the immediate implementation of minimum pricing of alcohol products, which has been interminably delayed by government inertia, yielding to the concerns of the alcohol producers. 

The legal operation of Section 23 concludes much of the commendable work by the previous Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD.  

Neither the current Minister, Stephen Donnelly TD, nor the Minister of State for Public Health, Frank Feighan TD, have indicated, or proposed a timeline, to commence the four major pillars of the Act – minimum pricing, content of advertising, labelling of products or a broadcast watershed, that remain outstanding but which are promised to be honoured within the Programme for Government.   

As the COVID response strains so much of our health services’ capacity, it is important to note that dealing with alcohol related inpatient care accounts for 11% of all public healthcare expenditure, and one in five available ICU beds. 

From the outset of the COVID crisis, and understanding that alcohol use has facilitated the transmission of this virus, we urged government to restrict both the availability and volume of alcohol sales from the off-trade, where trade data has consistently shown a concerning trend of soaring alcohol sales.

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