My Department has received Government approval for policy actions aimed at reducing the levels of smoking and drinking in Ireland. I would like to note at the outset that the figure of 29% of the population smoking, quoted by the OECD in their report, was sourced from the 2007 SLAN study. However, the latest figures from the National Tobacco Control Office in the HSE (collected in June 2012), show that 22% of the Irish population now smoke.
Tobacco Free Ireland, which I launched on 3 October 2013, sets a target for Ireland to be tobacco free (i.e. with a prevalence rate of less than 5%) by 2025. Tobacco Free Ireland sets out over 60 recommendations with the overall aims of denormalising smoking in our society, protecting children from the harms of tobacco, enforcing, regulating and legislating for tobacco activities and products, educating about the dangers of tobacco and assisting those who smoke in stopping.
An extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse to be incorporated in a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill was approved by Government on the 24th October 2013. The aim is to reduce our per capita consumption of alcohol to the OECD average (9.1 litres of pure alcohol per capita) by 2020. These measures are based on the recommendations contained in the National Substance Misuse Strategy report 2012. The package of measures to be implemented will include provision for:
- minimum unit pricing for alcohol products;
- the regulation of advertising and marketing of alcohol;
- structural separation of alcohol from other products in mixed trading outlets;
- health labelling of alcohol products; and
- regulation of sports sponsorship.
Work is continuing in my Department on the implementation of the recommendations in Tobacco Free Ireland and the drafting of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. These measures have been developed under the Healthy Ireland framework. Healthy Ireland is a government framework, which sets out a vision that will improve the health and wellbeing of all the population of Ireland over the next 12 years. It puts forward a “whole of society” approach and new arrangements to ensure more effective co-operation to achieve better outcomes for all.