Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Questions (356)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

356. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health the legislative and policy measures available to tackle underage drinking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52716/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The primary policy objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act include to delay the initiation of alcohol consumption by children and young people and to reduce the harms caused by the misuse of alcohol.

Three sections of the Act came into operation on November 12th 2019:

- a prohibition on alcohol advertising in or on public service vehicles, at public transport stops or stations and within 200 m of a school, early years centre or a local authority playground.

- a prohibition on alcohol advertising in a cinema except around films with an 18 classification or in a licensed premises in a cinema.

- a prohibition on children’s clothing that promotes alcohol.

These measures will help to create an environment free from alcohol advertising in areas frequented by children and will ensure that they can grow up in circumstances where they are not regularly exposed to alcohol advertising.

From 12 November 2020, the Act will separate and reduce the visibility of alcohol products in mixed retail outlets so that the message will be clear that alcohol is not like other grocery products.

From 12 November 2021, there will be a prohibition on alcohol advertising on a sports area during a sporting event, at events aimed at children or at events in which the majority of participants or competitors are children. Alcohol sponsorship of events aimed at children, events which the majority of participants or competitors are children and events involving driving or racing motor vehicles will also be prohibited. The objective here is to ensure that there is no place for alcohol advertising and alcohol sponsorship in relation to children's sporting events.

Minimum Unit Pricing will help to prevent alcohol being sold at pocket money prices so that it is out of reach of our children.  The 2013 Government Decision which approved a minimum pricing regime envisaged its introduction in Northern Ireland and in this jurisdiction simultaneously. It is my intention to seek a revised Government Decision so that minimum unit pricing can be implemented as soon as possible in order to address the very significant health harms and financial costs of the way alcohol is currently consumed here. I also intend to regulate price-based promotions of alcohol products in the future so as ensure that these products become less affordable for young people.