ECJ opinion on Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol clears the way for the introduction of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

ECJ opinion on Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol clears the way for the introduction of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

Government can move forward with life saving legislation

Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland notes the European Court of Justice opinion on the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol through legislation in Scotland. It marks another important step in legislating for public health measures to prevent the unacceptably high number of deaths due to alcohol in Ireland.

Today Prof Frank Murray, Chair of Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland and President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland reaffirmed the alliance’s commitment to support the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, in introducing the Public Health Alcohol Bill in the coming months, with MUP as one of its key measures.

“We live in a country where three people die every day as a result of alcohol. This is so many more deaths than is caused by road traffic accidents, where targeted evidence-based measures introduced by Government initiatives have been successfully shown to save lives and reduce harm. Our hospitals are overcrowded, a problem exacerbated by the fact that at least 1,500 hospital beds are taken up every night as a result of alcohol.

“Ireland showed leadership over 10 years ago by introducing a smoking ban in the workplace in the face of fierce opposition from well-resourced and powerful tobacco companies. It is now time for Minister Varadkar and the Government to proceed urgently with this important legislation that is being frustrated and delayed by the actions of the profitable alcohol industry and its front groups, who also challenged the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce MUP three years ago. Each day’s delay in enacting this legislation costs lives and damages health in Ireland.

 “The alcohol industry will always invest huge resources in lobbying and other activities to block initiatives that threaten their sales and profits. They will continue to spend millions on sophisticated marketing campaigns designed to get more people to drink more alcohol. Their motive is to protect and grow their profits for shareholders no regard for the harm being caused to Irish men, women and children.

“It is time for politicians to view alcohol as a problem that affects society as a whole rather than a personal lifestyle choice.” Prof Murray said.

Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, said that MUP has clear advantages over taxation as a measure to reduce alcohol harm as it is targeted towards saving lives amongst the most vulnerable drinkers in Irish society - young people and those who are alcohol dependent - while having little or no impact on those who drink in a low-risk manner.

“The evidence shows that MUP can make an immediate difference by saving lives amongst those who drink in a high-risk manner and it will also reduce alcohol-related hospital admissions, alcohol-related crime, and workplace absences due to alcohol, thereby reducing the huge health, social and economic burdens that alcohol harm places on Irish society.

“A health impact assessment of MUP in Ireland estimated that with a €1 MUP per standard drink (10g of alcohol), alcohol-attributable deaths would be reduced by approximately 197 per year after 20 years, by which time the full effects of the policy will be seen, due to the time-lag involved with many serious alcohol-related illnesses, such as liver cirrhosis and alcohol-related cancers,” said Ms Costello.

Briefing information for Minimum Unit Pricing is available via the link below

For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact:

Yvonne McCahill, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland- 01-8639627/086-7723056