This week, I welcomed the moves undertaken by the Minister for Health, and my constituency colleague, Leo Varadkar, to attempt to tackle the troubled Irish relationship with alcohol.
As announced yesterday, the long-awaited drinks legislation will see a ban on alcohol advertising banned near schools, playgrounds and public transport. I think this can only be welcomed, and is a worthwhile step to take – the idea that alcohol advertising could take place near a secondary school up until now is, frankly, bizarre.
Under the new laws, we see a minimum level of alcohol pricing also being set. This is a vital step, and will mean a bottle of wine will be set at a minimum price of €7.60, though this would depend on the strength of the wine. Similarly, a 500ml can of beer at off trade will cost at least €1.95 under these new pricing levels.
Up until now, advertising and sponsorship restrictions have been broadly voluntary, but will now be subject to prosecutions under the criminal justice system. This is a hugely worthwhile step, as it is clear that self-regulation has proven hugely ineffective.
The Bill also includes a ban on on-pitch advertisements for alcohol in sports events, and the provision of calorie information on all products.
One criticism being levelled at this Bill mostly concerns the minimum pricing aspect, though I do think it’s worth noting that this is also being introduced by the Government in Northern Ireland, and an all island approach is really the best way to go on this. We will see huge long-term benefits.