I am concerned about the high level of alcohol consumption in Ireland, especially among younger people. One in four deaths in young men between the ages of 15 and 34 is due to alcohol, compared with one in 12 deaths due to cancers and one in 25 deaths due to circulatory disease. Suicide rates have doubled in Ireland in the past 20 years. Alcohol is a factor in nearly half of all young male suicides.
As Minister of State with responsibility for health promotion, protecting the health of our young people from alcohol related harm is one of my key priorities. Participation in sport is a key element of the health and social well-being of our children as well as the rest of the population and I want to promote this very positive relationship between sport and health.
Following a Government decision in 2008, a working group was established to deliver on the commitment in the programme for Government to discuss the question of the sponsorship of sporting events by the alcohol industry with a view to phasing it out.
This report was published in June 2010 and subsequently the Minister, Deputy Harney, referred it to the steering group developing the national substance misuse strategy to assist in its deliberations on the issues of alcohol marketing and sponsorship. The national substance misuse strategy is intended to incorporate alcohol policy with the already agreed drugs policy element. The steering group is examining a wide range of issues on alcohol policy such as pricing, availability, treatment, prevention, marketing and sponsorship and working towards completing its work before the end of the year. I look forward to receiving its report and considering its recommendations.
With regard to the specific matter of curtailing alcohol sponsorship of sports events at a European level, there is no legislative framework at a European level to control or regulate marketing or sponsorship by the alcohol industry. Member states have national competence in this area. It is a matter for individual member states to introduce and implement measures at national level if they wish to control sports event sponsorship in their own jurisdiction.