Press Release

Alcohol related problems cost Irish society €2.65 billion

According to the Second Report of the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol (STFA), Ireland’s alcohol related problems continue to increase and in 2003 cost Irish society in excess of €2.65 billion.

The report was presented today (22nd September) to the Minister for Health and Children, Mr. Micheál Martin, T.D. and contains a series of recommendations devised to tackle Ireland’s alcohol-related problems. The report states that the Irish are amongst the highest consumers of alcohol in Europe, with a consumption rate of 13.5 litres of pure alcohol per adult in 2003.

According to Minister Martin, “there is no doubt that alcohol related harm is one of the biggest public health issues facing Ireland today from an economic, social and personal standpoint. This harm is not limited to the individual drinker but also to those around them and to society. This wide-ranging report, which I will be bringing to Government, contains recommendations relevant to many different sectors in Irish life. For my part as Minister for Health and Children, I want to place particular priority on protecting children from the harmful effects of alcohol and on advising of the risks associated with consuming alcohol during pregnancy.

As Minister for Health and Children I have an obligation to promote and protect public health and plan to bring this report to Government for approval. A number of recommendations have already been adopted from the STFA’s Interim Report (2002) and this is just the beginning. The combined recommendations from both reports will form a blue print for tackling this issue, moving forward and bringing about change. There is a huge task ahead of all of us to bring about this much needed change.”

In addition to highlighting current alcohol related trends, the Second Report of the STFA  outlines the progress made since the Interim Report and makes additional recommendations in tackling the issue in Ireland. The recommendations of both reports are evidence based and have proven to be effective already. For example in 2003 alcohol consumption in Ireland showed a decline for the first time in over sixteen years, reducing consumption by 6% to 13.5 litres of pure alcohol. The key factor for this reduction was an increase in excise duty on spirits introduced in December 2002, as recommended in the Interim Report of 2002.

“while progress has been made in a number of areas from the measures recommended in the Interim Report, it is only the beginning and much more needs to be done.  We need to change the cultural attitude in relation to alcohol and we all have a part to play in reducing the alcohol related harm that costs our society so dearly,” added Minister Martin.

Current alcohol related trends cited in the Second Report of the STFA include;

  • In a study of seven European countries, Ireland had the highest level of binge drinkers, with 58% of drinking occasions ending up in binge drinking among men and 30% among women.
  • Alcohol related mortality has increased in line with the increases in alcohol consumption between 1992 and 2002, in particular alcohol specific chronic conditions e.g. dependency, abuse and psychosis (+61%) and acute conditions e.g. alcohol poisoning (+90%).
  • Nearly €6 billion of personal income is spent on alcohol in Ireland representing
  • 1,942 for every adult (15 years and over).
  • 37% of all deaths from drowning in 2002 were alcohol related
  • Alcohol is estimated to be involved in 40% of road deaths and at least 30% of all road accidents each year in Ireland.
  • Alcohol is the third most detrimental risk factor for European ill health and premature death, after only tobacco and high blood pressure.

According to Dr. Jim Kiely, Chairman of the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol and Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health and Children, “The recommendations include a wide range of initiatives and combine to make a national, regional and local framework for tackling this issue. They should be implemented as an integrated programme and include the introduction of community action projects, effective primary care programmes, the development of employers guidelines on alcohol policies and professional training for those in contact with alcohol problems, alcohol free alternative venues for children, and increasing taxes on alcohol.”

The STFA was established in January 2002 by the Minister for Health and Children  to recommend specific, evidence based measures to Government to prevent and reduce alcohol related harm in Ireland. In its Interim Report presented to the Minister in May 2002 it made a number of recommendations based on six of the ten WHO Strategies for Alcohol Action. The Second Report makes recommendations on the remaining four areas and includes additional ones in the other five key areas. Members of the STFA include representatives from Government Departments, state agencies, drinks industry and experts from the alcohol policy and public health fields.

Minister’s Speech