Letters - Why we need to pass the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill
2017-10-15 06:25:15 -

Our politicians have a unique opportunity in the coming weeks to adopt public health legislation that can dramatically reduce harm and save many lives in Ireland.


Politicians are once again coming under relentless lobbying by vested interests who are seeking to further obstruct the passage of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. This is at a time when access to our health services remains at crisis levels.


It is essential that the evidence-based initiatives contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill are not trivialised or further watered down. This will take political courage. By voting for the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, politicians will be taking a huge step towards reducing the frontline pressures on our health system. 


Evidence shows that measures such as Minimum Unit Pricing can quickly reduce the numbers of people who need hospital care due to fights, accidents and road crashes and other incidents. It can help to reduce the strains on an already crisis-ridden health service from the wave of chronic disease conditions an ageing population will bring and can protect our children from being bombarded by alcohol advertising. The strength of the industry lobby against these measures shows this Bill has substance and can make a difference.


Ahead of Budget 2018, it’s important to remember that €1 in every €10 spent in the health service is currently being spent on alcohol-related hospital care. That’s €1.5bn annually to care for individuals whose health problem is due to alcohol. This is a lot of money that could be better spent to improve patient care and public health. The alcohol industry, which is responsible for their illness, does not pay for their care.


The drinks industry and big supermarkets are working hard to protect their financial interests at this time. Our politicians have a duty to protect the health services, the health of the nation and the public. That time is now. We must enact the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.


Prof Frank Murray MD

President, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

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