Press Release

Minister Corcoran Kennedy highlights the importance of price measures in changing behaviour in relation to cigarettes, alcohol and unhealthy diets

Minister for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD, today highlighted the importance of price measures when it comes to encouraging behavioural change in relation to tobacco use, alcohol and unhealthy diets. The Minister was speaking as she opened the University of Liverpool Conference ‘Taxation and Other Economic Incentives as Health-Promoting Tools: A Focus on Tobacco, Alcohol and Unhealthy Diets’.

The aim of the conference is to discuss the role of price measures in tackling non-communicable diseases, for example cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. Tobacco use, an unhealthy diet and the harmful use of alcohol increase the risk of Non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The conference is addressing a number of important issues, including:

  • Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their impact on health systems
  • The need for comprehensive strategies to prevent NCDs by tackling risk factors that cause them
  • The importance of price strategies in encouraging behavioural change regarding tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy diets

Minister Corcoran Kennedy said: “When it comes to health promotion and encouraging behavioural change in relation to tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy diets what we need is a a whole of government and a whole of society approach. This is crucial if we are to be successful in stemming the tide of NCDs and their impact on our populations.”

Commenting on the importance of price strategies Minister Corcoran Kennedy noted that “most evidenced based strategies identify the role of taxation or other economic incentives as a means of behavioural change to a greater or lesser extent. The challenge for us in the health sector, myself included, is to persuade others that there is a health dividend and an economic dividend in pursuing this agenda.”

The Minister pointed out that tobacco use is one area where the importance of economic incentives can be clearly seen. “Tobacco use is a significant cause of ill-health in Ireland. The 2015 Healthy Ireland Survey found that 23% of adults 15 years or older are current smokers. Almost 6000 of our population die annually from tobacco related disease and tobacco use has been estimated to cost Irish society a total of €10.7 billion annually in healthcare, productivity and other costs. The Government is committed to changing that. Tobacco Free Ireland, the first policy document launched under the Healthy Ireland Framework in October 2013, has set an overarching goal of having Ireland tobacco free by 2025. As part of this the aim is to introduce annual excise duty increases on tobacco products over a continuous five year period and increase duty on roll-your-own and other tobacco products to reduce the price differential between cigarettes and other tobacco products. Increasing the price of tobacco through taxation is regarded by the WHO economists to a cost-effective and feasible intervention.”

The Minister also referred to measures to reduce alcohol consumption. “Our aim is to reduce alcohol consumption to the OECD average and to reduce binge drinking. The Government is tackling this with the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which is the first ever public health legislation on alcohol and among the most far-reaching in Europe.  This will, among other measures, bring in minimum unit pricing to tackle cheap alcohol.”