Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 – Seanad Éireann Final Stage – Concluding Remarks by Minister for Health

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I would like to thank all of the Senators who contributed to the debate on this Bill as it passed through this House. Your constructive engagement in the important work of reducing the damage done to our society by the harmful use of alcohol is very much appreciated. It is my goal that our work in this House on this Bill will lead to a lasting improvement in the well-being of our families, friends and communities.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has given this House the opportunity to recognise, to discuss and to attempt to mitigate the damage caused by the misuse of alcohol to our health, our society and our economy.

We in Ireland have a serious problem. We drink too much alcohol and we drink in a way that is harmful to ourselves and those around us.
The statistics can still shock even if we have heard them before.

The 2016 Health Research Board Report found that the number of alcohol related deaths in the period 2008 to 2013 was 6,479. In 2013 alone there were 1,055 alcohol related deaths which translates as 88 per month or 3 people per day. These are preventable deaths.

Over 167,000 people suffered an alcohol related assault in 2013. Of the more than 7000 people that responded to the 2017 Healthy Ireland Survey one in 20 reported being hit or assaulted by some who had been drinking and the same proportion had been a passenger in a vehicle with a driver who had too much to drink. These numbers are a reminder that harmful drinking does not just affect the drinker.

The Public Health Alcohol Bill is a landmark piece of health legislation and will be the first piece of public health legislation in relation to alcohol.

I’m delighted to have been in a position to bring it through this house, with all of your help and collaboration.

I believe that the measures we have agreed here today will make a real and substantial difference. The last time I stood here I said that it was my aim to reduce the visibility of alcohol in our shops and the measures we have agreed here will do that, for the first time.

Gone are the days of voluntary codes – with this Bill we will have a strong piece of workable, enforceable legislation which will reduce alcohol consumption and the harms caused by alcohol in Ireland.

The Bill contains a suite of measures to assist in reaching this objective and focuses on affordability, availability and attractiveness of alcohol products.

These include minimum unit pricing, health labelling and regulation of advertising. I am committed to seeing these introduced as soon as possible.

As a country, we have already shown that public health legislation in the area of tobacco can work, now let’s do the same for alcohol.

I firmly believe that this is a bill that will save lives, change our culture, protect our children and promote positive public health in this country.
Thank you all once again for your contribution to the debate.