How will the Alcohol bill affect Irish drinking?

Last week we described how the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which aims to reduce Irish drinking was delayed yet again.


Good news at last

Well the good news is this week, after another long winded debate the bill actually passed thought the Dail. There was even a round of applause after the bill passed.

A small number of TD’s attempted to delay the bill yet again. Many with personal connections to the alcohol industry.


Reducing Irish drinking

Minister for Health, Simon Harris said:

“This is the first time in the history of our State we have endeavoured to use public health legislation to address issues in relation to alcohol. It is therefore a ground-breaking measure.

“For the very first time in our history we are legislating for alcohol as it affects our health and it is right and proper that we do that.

“We know that we have a relationship with alcohol in this country that is not good, that damages our health, harms our communities, and harms many families,” he said.

“The measures in this bill will make a real difference to change the culture of drinking in Ireland.”


How will this affect me?

So how will this affect drinkers?  Well, there will be health warnings on alcohol and alcohol will have to be sold in a separate part of the shop.

The biggest impact though is something called minimum unit pricing.

What this means is the price of alcohol will be related to how strong the alcohol is.

To set the minimum price for a particular alcohol product, you find how much the drink weighs in alcohol strength and multiply it by 10 cent. The Bill uses a specific formula.


A bottle of wine will be €7.10

So taking a bottle of wine of 750ml with 12% strength.

That would give

750 *.12 * .789 (figure specified in bill) which gives 71.01.

Multiply this by 10 cents and it gives a price of €7.10

So retailers won’t be able to sell this bottle of wine for less than this. It will mean selling wine below cost  as a discount sales offer can’t happen.


A bottle of vodka will be €20.71

Taking a bottle of vodka say, 700 ml and 37.5% strength. This would give

700 * .375 * .789 giving 207.11.

Multiply this by 10 cents gives €20.71.

So this will be the minimum price of vodka. While vodka’s normal price is €25 and upwards, there are often special offers which reduces the price below this. You can even get it free sometimes as seen below.

irish drinking

Check out your tipple of choice

So using the formula you can now calculate how much minimum unit pricing is going to affect you. If you drink mainly in a pub or wine bar it’s unlikely to have any effect. If you normal pay €12 euro for a bottle of wine, you won’t pay more. However all those special deals for low priced drinks will disappear. No more €4 euro bottles of wine which were €12 euro.


Minimum unit pricing is pretty clever

A basic law of economics is the lower the price the more people will buy. (Except when it’s something like a designer handbag which has appeal because it is so expensive and exclusive)

So what minimum unit pricing does is encourage people to buy alcohol with a lower alcohol strength because it will be cheaper.

Young people tend to buy the cheapest alcohol because they  have less  money. People with a drinking problem tend to buy the cheapest alcohol because they drink so much.

So now  these groups will tend to buy lower strength alcohol as it will be cheaper. Lower alcohol strength means less harm. So minimum unit pricing is pretty clever as unlike excise duties it targets people who tend to drink too much.


Can the minimum unit price change?

The aim of the bill is to reduce Irish drinking to levels suggested by the World health Organisation.

irish drinking

So if  Irish drinking  does not fall, the Bill gives the Minister the power to review the minimum unit price in 3 years’ time.


A final word

We got some fairly aggressive emails for our support for the bill.  Shows the level of support for our alcohol culture. But we also got some lovely emails thanking us for campaigning for the bill. So thanks to those people. You know who you are.




Bad week for the Public Health Alcohol Bill

The Public Health Alcohol bill which we wrote about here was back in the Dail this week. It’s now 1,000 days since the bill was first proposed. In that time over 3,000 people have died from alcohol related harm.


Alcohol kills more people than suicide

As we’ve written before alcohol harm kills more people than illegal drugs and suicide.

Public Health Alcohol Bill

So you would think the bill which is aimed at reducing these deaths would be treated urgently. But no, two other bills, the Good Friday Pub bill and Craft brewery opening hours bills  have been introduced after the Public Health Alcohol bill and  are now law.


The Public Health Alcohol bill came back into the Dail

It was hoped the bill would be approved by the Dail on Wednesday. The debate started in the evening and ran for over 4 hours. A small number of deputies kept talking with total misinformation.

Michael  Healy Rae- Yes- he of the publican family, that thinks overgrown hedges kills more people, thought the bill was aimed at young people only.

In fairness, Stephen Donnelly, the Fianna Fail spokesman on health withdrew his amendment as he did not want to delay the bill. He also admitted to now being aware of the links between alcohol and cancer.

Louise O Reilly also proposed a useful amendment to start detailed tracking of alcohol related harm.


The Bill does not pass

With all the hot air, though the debate ran out of time. As one commentator said

“Listening to the filibustering and misinformation in the Dail by a handful of Deputies.

We have been apple picking in orchards in childhood and down the Wild Atlantic Way”

You can watch the full dispiriting debate at this link here- (pick Wed 27th Sept)  if you have masochistic tendencies, or you can pick up the speeches here.


The media role

The media did not cover themselves in glory either. Disgracefully, Virgin Media asked Michael Overgrown Hedges Healy  Rae to present a current affairs programme dealing with the Public Health Alcohol bill. Healy Rae missed a Dail vote to do this. There was no mention of his conflict of interest. However Senator Frances Black did a great job defending the bill. You can see a clip here.

Gerry O Sullivan, questioned Healy Rae ‘s appearance as a current affairs presenter on Kerry Radio and got a lot of abuse for his troubles. Link here.

On Twitter, the political editor of the Irish Times, Pat Leahy said he could only watch the debate with a half bottle of claret. (Smart Pat, you’re not binge drinking ). This generated multiple  replies mainly along the lines of

“It would drive you to drink, all right,”


You’re going to die, we’re all going to die.”

Very few of the replies were active supporters of the Public Health Alcohol bill.


Alcogenic Culture?

So if you’re trying to manage your drinking, our alcogenic or drinking environment does not help. All the messages are drinking is fun, sexy, entertaining and that life without drink is boring and uninteresting.

It can be very hard not to absorb these messages. It makes trying to reduce drinking very difficult as  discussed here  and here.


It’s changing though

There are signs of change though. 92% of the public do support the bill.

Public Health Alcohol bill


Minister Simon Harris has committed to bringing the bill back into the Dail next Wednesday. Hopefully the Government will stand up to alcohol industry pressure.

So just keep reminding yourself, your thinking is more informed than many of our TD’s and media. You know alcohol is a problem.


Motivation wavering?

And if you feel your self-belief or confidence weakening try reading some of our writer’s stories on our blog. For example

MSBG writes about “how living in Ireland made her  drink more to be accepted by Irish Friends

Irvine says “  he can’t live in Ireland as he drinks too much.

Siolta writes ” on her fears of  being seen as no craic ” if she does n’t drink

Beanyneamy writes ” on drinking away the Irish stereotype

Or just watch the very funny Irish intervention.Over 4 million people have enjoyed it so far.


An Irish alcohol intervention will make you laugh

Alcohol  intervention is the term  used to describe when families and or friends come together to try and persuade someone they care about that they are drinking too much. Often when they are very confrontational they have the opposite effect and just push the person into drinking more. So we’re not big fans of alcohol  interventions. We believe people drinking too much need support not criticism.


Does the person know they have a drinking problem?

It’s really important to know what stage the person is at. Do they have even a little  awareness they have an alcohol problem or are they totally unaware they are drinking too much?

A very useful tool is the Wheel of Change (shown below) which shows the various stages people go through when trying to make any type of change whether big or small.

alcohol intervention


The wheel of change can really help

Psychology research suggests supporting the person according to where they are in the wheel of change is more helpful.

So if somebody is not on the wheel of change, they have not  yet realised they are drinking too much. Confronting them in an alcohol intervention to “make them see the truth” is unlikely to help. It could even make matters worse.

Instead provide simple factual information as to why reducing drinking may be helpful. It should be relevant to the person.

For example, if the person drinking too much is sad or is anxious, information showing the links between drinking and anxiety may be useful. You can find useful facts on this   here or South Lady’s story here  may be helpful.


Alcohol interventions can cause more problems

While many treatment services recommend alcohol interventions to “break down the person’s resistance” we are not fans of an approach which is often  based around active confrontation and frequently creates resistance.

But onto an alcohol intervention which we definitely like.


A funny  Irish alcohol intervention

Foil, Arms and Hog are Irish comedy geniuses. They do sketches and weekly videos poking fun at  Irish life and culture.

One of their videos  now has over 3 million views. It’s about an alcohol intervention. But an alcohol intervention with a difference. This intervention is  for  an Irish boy who does not drink.

It’s really funny, mainly because it shows just how much alcohol is a part of our lives and you can actually see this type of thing  happening in real life.

Some of the comments on the video bear this out

“I’m a Irish teetotaller. Spookily accurate believe it or not. I’m a disgrace.” 

 “defo think this is what my mates are like with me when I don’t drink on nights out hahahahaha or my family with me at the wedding not drinking haha”


“You’re pregnant, my friends said when I stopped drinking

Many of our writers say the same thing, their family and friends don’t like it when they don’t drink.

Sinead writes about “You’re pregnant, my friends said when I stopped drinking

MSBG writes about “how living in Ireland made her  drink more to be accepted by Irish Friends

Irvine says “  he can’t live in Ireland as he drinks too much.

Siolta writes ” on her fears of  being seen as no craic ” if she does n’t drink

Beanyneamy writes ” on drinking away the Irish stereotype ”

My own experience of giving myself a hangover headache

So this video really  nails our approach to drinking. The social pressure to always drink.


Make the change

If you’d like to change our attitudes to alcohol, sign our petition here to support the alcohol public health bill. Big Alcohol have pulled out all the stops  to kill  this bill and our Government is listening to them and putting big alcohol profit before public health.


Make sure to watch the video here, you’ll get a good laugh. And go see Foil Arms and Hog, it will be a great night out.



Irish Government trying to cancel Christmas

Irish government trying to cancel Christmas

The Irish Government are trying to cancel Christmas. At least that’s what you think if you listened to Big Alcohol.

Big Alcohol have produced a very expensive looking video showing the impact of the long awaited public health bill on that iconic Guinness Christmas ad. You can see it here 


Cancel Christmas, we can’t advertise Guinness the way we want 

Big Alcohol see the proposed law (called a bill as it goes through our parliament)  as an attack on their ability to associate Christmas with drink.

So the new ad looks all sad and mournful and would not entice you to drink Guinness. So cancel Christmas. You can’t have Christmas without Guinness say Big Alcohol.


Duh, that’s the point

That’s exactly the point. Advertising encourages people to drink more and creates these wonderful fictitious stories and beliefs about alcohol as we’ve explained here. That’s why it can be so difficult for people to drink less.

We need this new law to stop adults and young children being targeted by drink companies. ( Click here for details on how Big Alcohol targets children )

As Alcohol action Ireland say about the new law.

“No longer will the Drinks Industry be able to hijack our every moment, reflect every emotion or share every success.”


Big alcohol are trying to stop this  bill

We’ve written before about the tactics Big Alcohol are using to stop this bill becoming a reality. (Click here)

The government are due to bring the bill back before the Seanad next week. So Big Alcohol are now really ramping up the pressure on our politicians.

In the period May to August alone, 8 different groups phoned, met or presented to many TDs, Senators, Civil Servants and Ministers  giving misleading facts about the bill. You can check their lobbying efforts  here.

This lobbying is having an effect. As you can see below some  TDs have already decided to put profit before people’s health.

cancel christmas


The sky’s falling in, cancel Christmas

The message Big Alcohol are giving is if this bill is passed it will ruin the advertising industry, jobs will be lost, tourists won’t come, and the government will lose taxes.

In short, the sky will fall in. Cancel Christmas if this bill passed. All because a small minority of people abuse alcohol.


Will the sky fall in?

Although we’ll lose some  excise duties and possibly jobs in the brewing industry this will be more than offset by the reduction in the cost of alcohol harm. Currently this runs over €1 billion per year to us the tax payers. Click here for details

It may be difficult for people in Big Alcohol initially but this change is not going to happen overnight. People working in the brewing industry are very skilled and in an economy reaching full employment, these people will be able to get jobs elsewhere . Click here for details Or they can concentrate on selling non alcoholic drinks.

Also the Vintners Federation is in favour of the bill as they see more people returning to their pubs if selling alcohol below cost is banned.

cancel christmas
Below cost selling


Tourists don’t come here for the drink

Oh and tourists don’t list drink and pubs in their top 7 reasons for coming to Ireland. (Click here for details)

Also those wonderful creative minds in the advertising industry can still create ads for alcohol but in a different way.

And finally, this bill is not required because of a small minority of people who can’t control their drinking. A HRB study shows that the vast majority of people who drink are harming themselves.

cancel christmas


Watch out for “fake news” about the bill

Though big alcohol say this bill won’t work, they keep spinning misleading facts to prevent the bill passing.

Ireland unlocked, a volunteer twitter account put together some short videos to show this. They  highlight  just some of the  misleading statements from the Clare Byrne live show. The’re not as slick as Big Alcohol videos (they don’t have a big advertising & design agency ) but they do expose Big Alcohol fake news

False: Big Alcohol says alcohol does not cause cancer

False: Big Alcohol says our regulations are the strongest in Europe

False: Big Alcohol says most people drink moderately

False: Big Alcohol does not target children

So you can see how Big Alcohol are misleading people with fake news and disputing facts.


Where do you want your taxes spent ?

Would you rather your taxes out of your hard earned income were spent

  1. Subsidising big alcohol profits?
  2. Making sure your elderly Dad or Mother does not die on a trolley bed in a hospital corridor?
  3. Getting that special needs assistant for your child?

If it’s 2 or 3 you should support the bill. You should also support the bill if you want to pay less taxes.


You can make a difference

People power stopped St Arthur’s Day.

People power can get this bill passed.

Please take just 5 minutes to email your TD’s here saying you support the alcohol public health bill.

Or if you don’t have five minutes, just take a minute to sign our petition and share it with your friends. Click here

Maybe future Christmases for those  270,000 children living with families who misuse alcohol will be happier as a result of this bill.

Future generations will thank you.

So please, don’t delay take action now.