New Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

The new Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has been under consideration by the government since late 2015 but has not yet been enacted. It is a far-reaching bill with new legislation on aspects such as minimum pricing, advertising and product labelling.

You can catch the first two parts of our series covering the important aspects of this bill here (on advertising), and here (on minimum pricing). This week we look at how alcohol labels will change, and ask if this bill is what is needed to tackle the problem of alcohol in Ireland.

WHEN YOU BUY a pack of cigarettes in Ireland, around 65% of the box is taken up with health warnings. It tells you that “smoking kills” and that “tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer” along with a graphic warning of what smoking can do to our teeth, lungs and throat.

The exact details haven’t been ironed out yet, but the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is set to bring in similar health warnings to cans and bottles of beer, wine and spirits in Ireland.

Unlike minimum pricing which is clear cut on what it’ll bring, labelling will be much harder for the government to introduce, with legal action from our EU neighbours among the risks to its implementation at the moment.

What it says

Under the section of the bill on “labelling of alcohol products and notices in licensed premises”, it says that all alcohol products manufactured, imported or sold in the State must contain:

  • A warning that is intended to inform the public of the danger of alcohol consumption
  • A warning that is intended to inform of the dangers of alcohol consumption when pregnant
  • The number of calories in the product, and the number of grams in the product
  • A link to a public health website, to be set up by the HSE, which will give information on alcohol and other health-related harms
  • Furthermore, anywhere that sells alcohol – both pubs and off-trade – will be required to display these warnings.
  • Also, the industry will have a three-year period to prepare for the implementation of labelling.

However, it is here where it gets complicated. The bill has little detail on what these warnings will actually look like. It does say, however, that it will be up to the Minister of Health to decide.

The Minister will be able to decide the “size, colour and font type of the printed material on the warning concerned”.

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