Last week, I said that a minimum price should be set for alcohol, as a new report highlights the spiralling trend of children drinking at a younger age.
Alcohol abuse could be the ruin of this generation if we don’t take action now. A new report by Alcohol Action Ireland has underlined the fact that the below cost selling of alcohol must be tackled for the benefit of our wider society.
In recent decades, we have seen a huge rise in underage drinking. Children born in 1980 used alcohol for the first time at age 16. Children born in 1990 used it for the first time at age 14. That’s a hugely worrying trend, with dire consequences for our economy and society.
Alcohol abuse is a huge cost on society. The latest figures show that our health services spend €1.2 billion each year – or around 8% of our healthcare budget – treating alcohol-related illnesses and accidents.
We need to address one of the main root causes of this problem. It’s now possible to purchase large volumes of alcohol, with plenty of change from a €10 note. Many large multiple retailers are clearly using cut-price alcohol as an incentive to get customers through the door. This means the price of alcohol is one of the main factors which determine where people do their weekly shop.
At the moment, it’s estimated that supermarkets spend about one fifth of their advertising budgets on alcohol products. Setting a minimum price, based on volume, would help undo this effect.
I believe that in a society where 54% of children have admitted to being drunk by age 16, establishing a minimum cost on the price of alcohol would be an important step forward in addressing our very worrying relationship with drink.