Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. As we all know, the abuse and overuse of alcohol is now a scourge in our society, particularly for the younger generation. Very serious health problems arise from overuse of alcohol, in particular from what is now known as binge drinking. As a nation we need to get to grips with this. I welcome many of the measures in this Bill, which is trying to bring about some measure of control over this problem for the sake our children and grandchildren.

The drinks industry is lobbying hard for changes to this Bill. We have to consider what it has done in recent years such as introducing alcopops which have a high alcohol content and, because they are very sweet and easy to drink, can be consumed in large quantities, leading to serious health issues. It has made cheap drink available. The industry might argue that it is the retail outlets that sell cheap but I think it is a combination of both. I welcome the introduction of minimum pricing.

There is a proposal to state on the label that alcohol can cause cancer. It may cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and other health problems. Should we consider a label that states "Alcohol seriously damages your health", as opposed to specifying a disease such as cancer? Should we look to the industry to fund the HSE and the Government to produce advertisements showing the harmful effects of alcohol? People can then make up their own minds. The alcohol industry will always be one step ahead of us when it comes to advertising. It will always come up with a smarter advertising campaign that will grab the consumer's attention. It might be a better strategy to have the ability and the money to fight back with advertising campaigns that show its harmful effects.

We should also reconsider the restrictions on advertising. If the industry has to move away from television, it will go to the Internet. No matter how big we build the mousetrap, the mouse will always get bigger. We really need to be as clever as the industry and inform people accordingly. These amendments came in late in the day. I would like the Minister to consider them. If we can come up with a better way to inform our population about the harmful effects of alcohol, we should do that. I understand that in France advertising of alcohol was banned approximately 30 years ago. What effect has that had? We could learn from the mistakes or otherwise of places that have banned advertising. I urge that this Bill be passed speedily. It is urgently needed to educate our population and stop it from continuing to overconsume alcohol and especially to stop the scourge of binge drinking among the younger generation.

I support this landmark Bill. It is a game changer in many respects. It has the same significance as the smoking ban introduced in 2004 in the teeth of strong opposition from vested interests. The time has come to confront our difficult relationship with alcohol.

As a society, we cannot ignore the problem of harmful drinking anymore. The Bill is a major attempt to improve health, well-being and mortality in this country.

There has been a delay in enacting this Bill. It passed Second Stage in the Seanad in December 2015 so there has been an extraordinary delay in getting the Second Stage debate underway in Dáil Éireann. Again, this demonstrates the power of the drinks lobby in this country. There has been extensive lobbying on this Bill. I have been lobbied by a number of parties. On 1 February 2018, I met with the chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance of Ireland, Professor Frank Murray, in Beaumont Hospital. Professor Murray is consultant gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Beaumont Hospital. He certainly presented to me the reality of the alcohol problem in Ireland in a very strong way. We do have a problem. It has been outlined by many of the speakers here. The cost to our economy of the alcohol problem is estimated to be €2.35 billion annually. It is a fact that every major family event or celebratory occasion in this country is dominated by alcohol, be it First Holy Communion, a wedding, a graduation or indeed the festival of Christmas itself. Alcohol is front and centre at these events and this attitude must change. I detect a small change in public attitudes but, obviously, more work needs to be done in that regard. It is estimated that three people die every day in Ireland as a result of alcohol. We all know the problems associated with excessive use of alcohol - absenteeism, problems in our health care system, a strain on our health services, problems relating to crime, drink driving, assaults, domestic violence, broken families, accidents and anxiety and depression, particularly among young people. Youth suicide is a particular worry.

We all know what is in this Bill. Obviously, the main part of it involves minimum unit pricing of alcohol. This is a targeted measure designed to prevent the sale of alcohol at very cheap prices. It is aimed at those who drink in a harmful and dangerous manner. I am satisfied that this is an evidence-based measure and that it is a proportionate response.

I have my own anecdotal evidence relating to young people. It is very easy for underage drinkers to get their hands on alcohol. From my observation, young girls are drinking far more spirits. There is also the practice of "prinks" where young people consume as much alcohol as possible in someone's house before going out for a night on the town. Again, these are attitudes that need to be confronted and need to change. We have a problem with binge drinking. The statistics are there, particularly relating to the 18 to 24 year old age group. It is a league we do not want to be top of and we need to do something about that.

With regard to the display and visibility issue, the issue regarding the separation of alcohol products in mixed trade retail outlets has been mentioned. A concession is proposed here. In the interests of practicality and the reality on the ground, I support the new agreements reached on this issue. I did visit a supermarket in my constituency and saw the situation for myself.

One last concern I have relates to those on low incomes. There is the possibility that this Bill could be particularly hard on those on low incomes, for example, somebody who might buy one or two bottles of wine a week in their local supermarket or off-licence as a little luxury. However, we do need to see the bigger picture. We must see what the common good is. At the end of the day, those on low incomes are the ones who will benefit most from these measures. This is a pragmatic response to the problem. We must reduce our alcohol consumption in this country. I hope this Bill has a speedy passage through the House.

I welcome any restrictions that would help. We have a problem with excess drinking in this country with problems such as underage drinking. However, I worry about this legislation. I am coming with a different perspective to that of previous speakers. I think it is too excessive. I am talking about measures to do with labelling. No other country in the world has mandatory cancer labels on alcohol products. I am talking specifically about cancer. The word "cancer" is a very serious one. It is a very serious word to put on a bottle. I am a survivor of cancer myself. Putting the word "cancer" on something that is a luxury that can be abused but which is not abused by 90% of the population is very serious and we need to think long and hard before we put it on a bottle. The Scottish try to sell their Scotch whiskey worldwide while we are trying to sell our whiskey. Many new companies and start ups are in the market. We promote them and then we come along with this labelling and talk about putting statements about how alcohol causes cancer on bottles. This is a step too far. We could put some warning that alcohol can be abused but I am worried about using the word "cancer" because it has repercussions across society. The introduction of Irish-only labels will result in significant additional costs of €50,000 per label according to the EY-DKM report. Somebody travelling to France or Spain on holidays might bring back a few bottles of wine. Will they have put labels on them when they bring them back to Ireland? This kind of thing must be looked at. When we sell our whiskey abroad, we will have to remove labels stating that alcohol causes cancer. This is unfair on companies all over the country and we need to be careful how we do it.

The advertising restrictions will make it difficult for new distilleries and breweries to market their products and compete against established brands. The Bill will stop product innovation in Ireland, which we are trying to grow to boost jobs and SMEs, and will reduce consumer choice and competition. Furthermore, advertisements for visitor centres that contain the name of the brand will be severely constrained. Over 2.5 million people visit breweries and distilleries annually. This is why I am worried about the competition end of it. I know we must take an overall view but I worry about that end of it as well. It has been said that the restrictions on advertising could cost Irish media €20 million in lost revenue. This is a lot of money. I know it is for their own good but will it be a big loss to sport in this country that it will not be able make up?

I am also worried about structural separation. These are very significant restrictions on small grocers in small villages. I met one woman who showed me her store, which is a little store serving a small rural population. She does not have room in her store but she must now put in these restrictions. She does not have the room to do this and will have to build on. All she is selling are bottles of wine. She is not even selling beer or whiskey. She is just selling bottles of wine. People come in and buy a bottle of wine, particularly at the weekend and on Friday when they get their wage package. They buy two or three bottles of wine to drink at home. We are going to put this kind of cost on them. I think this is prohibitive and I think we should think again about it.

With regard to overall alcohol consumption, we never allow for the 8 million people who visit Ireland. We are supposed to be one of the biggest consumers of alcohol in the world. I think we have gone from consuming fourteen point something litres per year to nine point something litres but we do not allow for the 8 million people who visit the country. They are all included in these consumption figures. When I visited Spain last year, of course, I drank a few extra glasses of wine. That is natural because people are on their holidays. This is all included. The 8 million people who come to Ireland drink more when they are here, particularly because we are known for our Guinness and our whiskies. Of course, they will taste the beverages we have here. This is part of the overall picture and I think this is not being taken into account. While I welcome any restrictions relating to the abuse of alcohol, I think this could be a step too far and could destroy our industry and what we advertise ourselves as offering, which is the nice welcome from the people of Ireland with a sup of Guinness and a drop of whiskey. Perhaps it is a step too far. I think it is a bit too restrictive.

I want to make a short contribution to this debate and put it on the record of the House that I support this Bill. I do not drink but I do go to pubs, clubs and hotels with friends and I can have a mineral or water.

One thing I see from time to time is the shocking abuse of alcohol. At times, we, as politicians, must stand up, be brave and do the right thing. If one visits, or has a family member in, an emergency department in any part of the country at the weekend, much of what one sees late on a Friday night or a Saturday night is down to the absolute abuse of alcohol. In recent years, I have witnessed with my own eyes what the staff, the doctors, the nurses and the ambulance people, have to go through. It is what families have to go through also.

I do not know if Members have ever seen the family of a young lad or lassie who has excess alcohol in her or his system and it is an issue of life or death called to the hospital. The worry and distress caused to those people are shocking. Abuse of alcohol also causes accidents and broken families. People talk about a shortage of money, not being able to pay the mortgage and breaking up families. The abuse of alcohol has done horrendous damage to families.

I refer to violence and poverty. Often in the case of people who are well paid, much of their money goes on alcohol. If they have a family, that leads to poverty for that family. Ill health is also a huge issue. I have spoken to consultants and doctors about supporting the Bill. They will say the abuse of alcohol is costing the health service millions of euro. We have to take that into account. Most of all, I refer to the worry and distress caused to families, which is why I support the Bill.

Before I conclude, I refer to a couple of things of which we need to be careful. We are giving support to breweries and we all acknowledge these are lovely little businesses. However, I spoke to a man developing a brewery in Lanesborough, County Longford. He hopes to bring 25,000 visitors to that village if he gets his brewery up and running. That happens because breweries are interesting places to visit in terms of the story being told. Locke's Distillery in Kilbeggan attracts 70,000 people a year. It is wonderful to hear that story.

To some extent, attention needs to be paid to what breweries are stating. I partly agree with Deputy Bobby Aylward about using the word "cancer" the labels on bottles. Abuse of alcohol will cause cancer. However, abuse of certain foods will also cause cancer. Perhaps we might look at a label stating: "Abuse of alcohol causes ill health". People in the business would not be against this.

People in various parts of rural Ireland are developing breweries and the stories around them. That will be good for tourism. As some of the proposals on labels and advertising could affect them, perhaps the Minister might take that into account. Overall, it is my duty to be upfront and say I want to support the Bill. However, I would like to see the one or two reservations I have addressed.

I welcome the Minister and the opportunity to speak about the Bill. I support its main principles, but I have a few reservations which I hope to address in the next couple of minutes. The main aim of the Bill is to have some control. We have had an uneasy relationship with alcohol in this country over many years. The aims of the Bill include a minimum unit price, new labelling and structure separation. The overall aim is to reduce the adult consumption of alcohol.

The first issue I want to address is the minimum unit. This is the key issue in the Bill. We have seen strong evidence that when the price of alcohol goes up, the level of harm goes down. That has been proved time and again. The main aim must be to target the cheap supply of alcohol. We have seen time and again, especially the summer, large groups of young people - I am not picking on young people - going into places and walking out with slabs of alcohol, slabs of cheap beer, on their shoulders. That issue needs to be addressed. One can probably get 22 or 23 cans or bottles of beer for €20. That beer is being bought to drink in an uncontrolled environment. In the past, when we were all that little bit younger and went out to have a social drink, we probably had it in the pub where it was controlled. If a person drank too much, he or she was told to go home or, more to the point, was brought home. We have a situation now where there is no control whatsoever. Cheap alcohol is being produced and sold. That is a key issue that needs to be addressed. A main aim of the Bill is to have a minimum unit price. It is a starting point but we are not going far enough.

There has been much talk about the labelling issue. It is to be mandatory for labels on alcohol products to include information on grams of alcohol, calories, dangers to women and so on, which are very important. Like previous speakers, I have certain concerns about the word "cancer" being put on labels. Cancer can be caused by a number of things. I am not a medical person, but I have concerns about it.

Like previous speakers, I express my support for local breweries and distilleries which have been a good news story in the past few years. We have seen them spring up around the country. The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, of which I am Chairman, produced a report on the future of the tillage sector recently. One of the key drivers of and support for the tillage sector is the development of local breweries.

The development of these breweries is very beneficial to the promotion of tourism in an area. I refer to the opening of a new distillery in Carlow, Walsh Whiskey Distillery. That is a €25 million investment in a local area that is crying out for something different from a tourism point of view. It exports to 45 countries around the world. In order for it to comply with the regulations, the company will have to have two lines producing two labels for two bottles. That is a huge cost but not only that once its bottle arrives somewhere in Europe, it will be put on a shelf beside a bottle with no label. It will be a huge disincentive in terms of promoting its product around the world. We must look at the European angle in that regard. There is a need for a European label in order that we will all be playing on a level field. That is a huge issue.

I support the principle of the Bill, but the labelling issue and the cost involved need to be looked at again. We are promoting these breweries and distilleries, but we should not tie their hands behind their backs as they move forward.

The other issue is advertising with which I have a major issue. I ask the Minister to look at it again. Going back to my local distillery, Walsh Whiskey Distillery, the proprietor is a man called Bernard Walsh. He is an ambassador in terms of the promotion of tourism in Carlow, a county that is crying out for it. He is the face of that product in the area, but in the future he will not be allowed to use his or his family's photograph on whatever advertisements he may have and - correct me if I am wrong - he will not be allowed to advertise in an open space. A tourist or tourist bus coming to Carlow to visit the distillery and the visitor's centre which Mr. Walsh is proposing to build, will not be able to find the place without Google maps. It is an issue we need to address. It is important that we do not tie the hands of people who are trying to promote and develop these products.

I compliment the Minister on his engagement on structural separation. This issue generated much debate and interest, but we have come to a reasonable compromise. There are two issues, namely, the big multiples and the small corner shop. We should not disadvantage the small corner shop in a rural area to the advantage of the big multiples.

The final issue I want to bring to the Minister's attention is education.

We cannot emphasise enough that it is the key issue. Culture is very important, but we saw the smoking ban come in. Who would have thought, 20 years ago, that such a thing would be introduced? Looking at a different area, there are safety belts in cars. Some of us who may be a little older will remember hopping into a car with no safety belts. One just drove on and everything was okay and there may have been six or seven in the back of the car. I will probably exempt the Minister from this particular discussion, but culture has changed where these things are concerned. The only way we can change the culture relating to alcohol in general is by educating people and children at a young age about the dangers of alcohol. Drink can be taken in moderation. I do not mean to be a spoilsport and do not think anybody does. I enjoy a drink socially, but there are huge issues to be addressed. The best way to do it is by starting to educate our people at a young age, when children go to school. That would enable the change of culture that only happens over a generation.

I welcome the general principles of the Bill. There are a couple of issues which I have addressed. I hope the Minister will take some of my concerns on board, but in general I thank him for his engagement and support the Bill.

I concur with Deputy Pat Deering about the Minister's work on the Bill and the path it has come along since its inception. A huge amount of work has been carried out on it. The Minister has listened to many sectors and business people who are struggling in rural areas. I have a few concerns. It is important that we stand up and take responsibility. We have to lead as a country and accept the issues with alcohol in society. It is important that we see key advertising to provide awareness about the difficult and harmful effects that excessive drinking can have on family life. A recent advertisement was very poignant, stating the more a person drinks, the less time that person has to spend with his or her loved ones. That is very true. If a person drinks excessively, that person will do huge damage to those closest to him or her. We have to mitigate that and ensure society is informed.

The key areas about which I am concerned are the craft brewery sector and distillery sector which have been growing in Ireland in the past few years. There were four whiskey distilleries in Ireland prior to 2010 and there are now 18, with 16 more in the final stages of planning. We are now working on the Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016 in the House to try to allow those distilleries and breweries to sell their products to visitors, with the current system being out of kilter with other countries worldwide. It is important that we carry forward that legislation.

My constituency has Kilbeggan Distillery, which was founded in 1757 and is the oldest distillery in Ireland. There are currently 40 people employed in it. Some 65,000 visitors go through its doors every year. It has another 70 people employed in County Louth. It has invested €14 million in the past six years and invested €4 million in Kilbeggan in my constituency to attract visitors and have sustainable rural jobs, which are vital to our society. Blacksmith Ventures is in Lanesborough, another area which needs employment and sustainable business to operate in that environment. It has received planning permission for an extensive distillery and visitor centre. I do not want to see businesses like that being affected by this legislation. They are businesses which are not really selling significant volumes to consumers. These businesses attract foreign investment and tourists to see the businesses first-hand. This sector has grown significantly in recent years.

I will address sections 12 and 13. One of the distilleries is on the River Shannon, almost overlooking Lough Ree. It needs to be able to tell the story about its business. The Bill precludes from the storytelling any person or scenic views of Ireland. It is hard for a craft brewery or new distillery to operate in that vacuum when trying to market a new product. It can be very difficult to market a new product because a person is operating in a vacuum, so to speak, with tough competitors. Those with well recognised labels will come to the fore but places like this new distillery in Lanesborough with new, sustainable jobs need to be able to market and sell their products. If there is a situation in which up to one third of the label has to have a harmful warning, with cancer having been mentioned, that is very serious. The alcohol industry has a responsibility with labelling to display nutritional values, include warnings for pregnant women and about harmful effects that it may have on health. If we compound that with a reference to cancer, considering that we process foods, how far will we go with this?

I am interested in hearing what the European Commission has to state about this. We all advocate free trade on one level. I am sure someone will take a case relating to this if this aspect of the Bill is not looked at. We are hampering free trade by, in effect, putting that label on it because we stand out among European countries. That is a big move to make. We have to support small manufacturing industries which are starting, including family businesses and companies. That is what this industry has grown from. They bring huge numbers of people into an area. The distillery in Lanesborough has full planning permission. If it is open two or three years after getting full planning permission and if, for argument's sake, a crèche opens 50 m away, does that mean that business is no longer viable or will not be able to put its name in front of its door? We need to look at sections relating to it.

Has the provision put forward relating to the cancer label been approved by the Cabinet or has the Cabinet assessed it? It looks like a late add-on to the Bill about which I would be hugely concerned. The groceries order was a huge issue which was talked about by many presenters. There were shows about it and the harm that it was doing. I think Deputy Micheál Martin was the Minister when it was abolished. One of the greatest failures at that time was that alcohol was not exempt from it. What happened, in effect, in convenience stores and such was that alcohol was sold as the loss leader to attract people. It left a situation where people could get vast quantities of alcohol at very cheap prices. We have to be sensitive to Northern Ireland. I know we are watching that as we bring the legislation forward. We also have to ensure that cheap alcohol is not as accessible as it was before since it is very bad for society. The people who had and such programmes need to stand up to take responsibility too because they advocated that the groceries order be abolished, yet we faced huge social problems as a result of that. I remember Eddie Hobbs said it would reduce the housewife's weekly basket but it had the reverse effect. Being responsible, we need to call these things out.

Supporting business is very important. My real fear in this legislation is that there may be unintended consequences and the societal benefit from one or two small provisions of this may not be as great as people think where labelling is concerned. I would be grateful if the Minister considered that issue and assessed the late provision that was brought forward. I have heard people advocating for why it has been included. I am not trying to say we do not need some kind of nutritional values or warnings, but to require one third of the label to contain a serious, significant warning about cancer or something of that nature is too significant for business and the industry and I do not think there will be a benefit on the other side. That is the main point that I would like to see looked at.

We need to be careful with advertising where it relates to the small industry that is setting up and that we are facilitating through the Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016. The owner standing in a distillery or craft brewery to promote it is not allowed to do so under this legislation. It is regrettable that, if someone is employing people such as Kilbeggan Distillery which employs 40 people, it will be very difficult to advertise successfully or to promote a new product such as in Lanesborough.

I thank the Minister for coming to the House for the debate. It is important that, as a society, we own up to the fact that we drink too much. It is welcome that the drinks industry has come a long way in the code of conduct it has employed on advertising. When finalising the legislation we need to be mindful of the sustainable businesses in rural Ireland that are providing vital employment, particularly the new breweries set up since 2010. It is important when crafting legislation that we do not unintentionally damage the industry. A visitor from overseas to the distillery in Kilbeggan is not someone who is engaging in excessive drinking. It is a different market, but it provides vital employment in the area.

The next slot is for a Fianna Fáil speaker who will be followed by Deputy Thomas P. Broughan. The debate is to be adjourned at 4 p.m.

Like other speakers, I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Bill. It is also welcome that the Minister for Health is present for this engagement.

Like my colleagues, I support the Bill and many of the measures contained in it. Being conscious of the time, I will not speak about issues raised by other speakers. There are three or four areas on which I would like to focus.

I am supportive of the minimum pricing proposal. It is a positive move in that it will deal with the abuse of alcohol by young people and those who are under age, in particular. We need to do all we can to ensure they cannot access alcohol by creative and innovative means, including with the assistance of older people, which is wrong and often leads to abuse and anti-social behaviour and domestic problems. The introduction of minimum pricing will, I hope, reduce the access of young people to alcohol which they can currently buy for a small amount of money, which is a huge problem in several areas, including my constituency. We may also need to consider making it an offence for an adult to purchase alcohol for a person who is under age. I have witnessed young people give money to adults to buy slabs of beer for them in an off-licence or a shop. They then abuse the alcohol, which is a problem. It might be worth considering making it an offence either in this Bill or in future legislation for adults to purchase alcohol for persons who are under age. We need to send the message that the purchase of alcohol by persons who are under age is not permissible. It should not be possible for them to access it by being creative, innovative or smart or by getting an older person to buy it for them, which causes a lot of social problems. When the minimum pricing provisions come into force, they will impact positively on businesses that provide employment and operate in a proper way. They will have a positive impact all round.

The proposals related to separation and the segregation of alcohol also need to be re-examined. I understand amendments will be brought forward on Committee Stage. I accept that alcohol products need to be separated from other products, but what is being proposed is drastic and a step too far. The financial burden on the SME sector in doing what is proposed will be negative. While alcohol products should be separated from other products, we need to engage with SMEs on how it can be done in the least cumbersome way possible.

The proposals on labelling are also an issue. While all labelling needs to draw attention to the negatives, the increased requirements in the labelling of alcohol are a concern. I understand the European Union is working on guidelines in this area; perhaps, therefore, we should wait to see what it will propose and then compare it with what is being proposed here. A label which carries references to cancer is alarmist. There are lots of things we do every day in moderation. A lot of people drink in moderation and only a minority abuse alcohol. We must be mindful, therefore, of how we draw attention to the fact that over-indulgence in different things can cause sickness and ill-health, including the consumption of alcohol. While there is a level of labelling that is necessary, we must be measured in our approach in how it is designed and put in place such that it will not impact negatively on what we are trying to achieve and will not be out of kilter with what is brought forward by the European Union. Given that we are pro-European Union and implement many laws and regulations driven by it. Perhaps, therefore, we should wait and see what it will propose on labelling, into which we can then tie what is being proposed here.

The abuse of alcohol is a huge issue in families and for individuals. It causes lots of social issues and domestic problems. That said, the abuse of anything causes problems and difficulties and impacts negatively on families. In regulating to reduce the level of abuse and improve people's health and circumstances we must do so in a way that will not impact negatively on those who do not abuse. We must be careful that we do not over-regulate for the minority such that we will spoil it for those who indulge in and enjoy alcohol in a responsible way. While alcohol is being abused, there are many who enjoy it in a responsible way. They do not over-indulge and are measured in what they do. We must be careful not to send a message to people outside Ireland that will label us negatively. There is lots to see and do in Ireland. We are a people who are open to engaging with others and can enjoy ourselves in a responsible way without over-indulging in or abusing alcohol. We have to balance this with what we are trying to achieve in this legislation. Therefore, we need to step back from and review some of the measures proposed in the areas about which I have spoken. We need to examine how we can achieve what we want to achieve in a way that will not be overly excessive, as in what is being proposed.

As stated by other speakers, including on the Government side, breweries create huge numbers of jobs. That feeds in positively to the local, regional and national economies. We cannot always be driven and governed by lobbyists and the creation of employment.

I ask that, as part of a balanced approach with a view to having a balanced outcome, we be mindful of the positive contribution these businesses make to the economy by creating local jobs.

It is welcome that the Bill is before the Dáil and not before its time. The previous Cabinet signed off on it in February 2015. We must be realistic and acknowledge that there is a serious problem with drink and the drink culture in this country and that it must be addressed. No one can argue against the facts, which are that an increasing number of people are presenting in hospitals with liver disease and that the average age of those presenting with it is becoming younger. This is not coincidental but because of the availability of cheap booze.

A welcome consequence of the Bill is that we will, straightaway, tackle below-cost selling of alcohol. The availability of cheap drink encourages excessive drinking, particularly in poorer socioeconomic regions. Collectively in this Dáil, we should work together to ensure the legislation will proceed through the next Stages as rapidly as possible because the problem needs to be tackled.

On advertising, it is welcome that the Minister is proposing to introduce a ban between 3 a.m. and 9 p.m. That is all very well and would probably have worked a couple of decades ago when most people had access to no media other than RTÉ One and RTÉ Two and the stations they could receive on a transistor radio. Given the advances in telecommunications, I wonder whether the initiative will have a real impact. I do not believe it will. On the flip side of the coin, it will cost Irish media companies millions of euro. As I said, I do not believe it will make a huge difference. Many people of my age and younger are accessing media through iPads and mobile phones and by streaming, etc. Consequently, I wonder whether the advertising aspect of the Bill is worthy.

Let us consider the tourism industry. Perhaps I am misinterpreting the legislation in believing that under it places such as the Guinness Storehouse will not even be able to advertise on the outside of their own buildings. The Guinness Storehouse is one of the main tourist attractions in the country. People do not go there to drink excessively. One gets only one pint when one goes in and it is part of the Irish cultural experience enjoyed by tourists from abroad. The same applies in a smaller scale to Locke's distillery in Kilbeggan, one of the only distilleries still in operation in all of Ireland. I was surprised to learn recently that 70,000 visit it. It will not be able to advertise on the roundabout outside Kilbeggan in order that people entering the town will know where it is located. If I am wrong, the Minister can correct me. If I am not, we need to address this issue.

It is welcome that the Minister made concessions on the issue of separation. It was common sense.

Whose responsibility is it to have labels on bottles? What is the position on small-scale distillers of specialist gins and brewers of craft beers that are predominantly for the export market? Are we using a sledge-hammer to crack an egg in that regard? Will we impose too many costs on small businesses considering that the majority of their products will be going to a market that may not require the proposed labelling?

Most people who buy drink in duty free shops are on their way out of the country. One very seldom sees people entering the country picking up drink in duty free shops. What we are doing is placing an unnecessary burden on duty free shops which support large-scale employment where they operate, be it at Shannon, Knock, Dublin or Cork Airport. Perhaps this issue might be examined. Is there a need for labelling in that context?

I acknowledge that excessive drinking is very harmful. In that regard, I mentioned the increase in the incidence of liver disease, particularly in the younger age categories. What we should refer to on labels is the abuse of alcohol. Having a glass or two of wine per week or fortnight is not as harmful as having a bottle or two of wine per night.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak to the Bill which was first introduced in the Seanad by the Taoiseach when he was Minister for Health in 2015. While I often disagree with him and the current Minister on many aspects of health, I warmly support the Bill. I have received many emails during the years from constituents urging me to support such legislation. If passed, it will be positive for the country.

There has been some misinformation circulated and intense lobbying by the alcohol industry on the provisions of the Bill. I have been contacted by constituents who enjoy a drink at home, as many do, and have expressed concern that the cost of alcohol will rise for them. In reality, however, there will be very little change for those of us who enjoy alcohol moderately and responsibly. The general thrust of the Bill is to curb binge drinking and delay access to alcohol by children and young people.

We know from the website of Alcohol Ireland that the rate of consumption of alcohol in the State rose from approximately 4.9 litres per person aged 15 years and over in 1960 to 14.3 litres per person aged 15 years and over in 2001. There was a slight decrease in the following years, but the rate still stands at around 11.6 litres per person per year. Our target is to reduce that figure significantly. It is estimated that three deaths per day are alcohol related. The World Health Organization states alcohol is a factor in over 200 conditions, diseases and injuries, including heart disease and cancer. Some 1,050 deaths per year, or 88 per month, are due to alcohol. One quarter of the deaths of young men aged between 15 and 19 years are due to alcohol. It is also an element in half of suicides and approximately 30% of incidents of self-harm. There are alcohol-related cancers. I welcome provisions included in the Bill to allow this sobering health information to be displayed at the point of sale.

The issues of labelling and segregation have arisen. To a large extent, the Minister has addressed the segregation issue. We are all familiar with small shops throughout the country, including the west.

On labelling, we have reached the stage where we expect to find fairly good information, nutritional and otherwise, on all products we consume. Perhaps it might be the same for alcohol.

The Minister already knows of my interest in and work on the issue of road safety. Drink-driving is one of the major causes of death and serious injuries on the roads. The Road Safety Authority has estimated that alcohol has been a factor in around two fifths of fatal road traffic collisions. I argue that this is an underestimation as replies to parliamentary questions in recent years have shown that testing for alcohol is not always carried out at the scenes of collisions.

The harmful effect of alcohol is not only felt by the person drinking but also by his or her family, friends and society at large. We have had this problem during the centuries. Behind us in the Chamber is a statue of one of our great predecessors, Thomas Davis. When he and members of Young Ireland, men and women, were writing in the newspaper The Nation in the 1830s and 1840s, alcohol abuse was a very severe problem. It was the time of Fr. Mathew and the Temperance movement. Society is, of course, changing and one of the biggest social changes in the past decade has been the development of coffee shops which have changed the social atmosphere. In general, therefore, I support the Bill.

We will be able to see how the concept of minimum pricing works in Scotland when it is introduced in May.

The Scots' relationship with alcohol is very similar to that of the Irish. We are sister nations with very deep associations. Many of the effects and costs of alcohol-related harm are mirrored in the two countries. The Scottish Bill was long delayed following the legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association, but the Supreme Court ruled that European law had not been breached and that such legislation was constitutional.

Debate adjourned.