Belfast Telegraph

Toll of alcohol on Ireland's health revealed amid legislation drive

Alcohol has claimed the lives of 2,000 people since the government first began deliberating over the controversial Alcohol Bill two years ago, a leading charity has warned.

Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) has also claimed more than 100,000 children have started drinking since the legislation was first raised in the Seanad.

On Wednesday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the long-stalled Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, 2015, would be reintroduced in the Seanad in November, after the Halloween break.

The Bill aims to greatly reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland by 2020 and to reduce the harms associated with alcohol.

To achieve this it would end below-cost selling through minimum unit pricing; place restrictions on alcohol advertising and sponsorship; provide for strict labelling on alcohol bottles and cans, and lead to the separation of alcohol products in retail outlets.

AAI has raised concern about the delay in bringing the legislation through the Oireachtas.

The charity said in November it will have been 700 days since the Bill began its legislative deliberations in the Seanad.

"Regrettably over the duration of this delay to enactment, our national consumption of alcohol continues to rise, a further 2000 lives have been lost to alcohol related illnesses, over 100,000 children have commenced drinking and alcohol continues to be a contributing factor in half of all suicides in Ireland," the charity said.

Eunan McKinney of AAI said the charity is confident that "this progressive piece of legislation can significantly and positively alter Ireland's harmful relationship with alcohol".

He added: "This legislation is the most far-reaching proposed by any Irish Government, with alcohol being addressed for the first time as a public health issue.

"The legislation remains part of a wider range of reasonable and pragmatic measures under the strategic framework of Healthy Ireland, which aims to improve the nation's health and wellbeing."

Mr McKinney said if the Bill is enacted in this parliamentary session "2018 may bring a beginning to de-normalising our cultural affair with alcohol, as we seek to reduce our per capita consumption by 20% from 11.46 litres to 9.1 litres per capita by 2025".

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