The Irish Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has signed orders to commence 23 sections of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which will come into effect on 12th November 2019. Alcohol ads will be banned on public service vehicles such as trains and buses, as well as bus stops and train stations. Adverts will also be prohibited from being shown within 200 metres of schools and public playgrounds, at cinemas except for films shown to over 18 year olds.
The controversial legislation will not just end there. In November 2020 the visibility of alcohol within stores such as supermarkets or petrol stations will be confined to a separate area for products and advertising segregated by a 1.2metre high barrier. And in November 2021 further bans on alcohol advertising will include sports areas during sporting events, at events aimed at children, or where most participants are children. Alcohol sponsorship of events aimed at children or involving racing vehicles will also be banned.
Other provisions being determined include minimum unit pricing – a cost below which alcohol cannot be sold, and detailed labelling on alcohol products with ingredients, calories and health warnings about the links between drinking and diseases.
Despite fervent opposition from the drinks industry this legislation has become a priority for the Irish government fuelled by health concerns and Ireland’s binge drinking culture. Harris stated, “This is the first time in history of our state that we have endeavoured to use public health legislation to address issues in respect to alcohol…The measures in this bill will make a real difference to changing the culture of drinking Ireland over a period of time.”
Drinks advertising in the UK
Alcohol companies in the UK must take note and not be complacent. They need to employ a responsible view when it comes to their own advertising campaigns or else risk the intervention of the government too. In 2017 a government survey of national drinking habits found that although young people aged 16-24 drank the least out of the respondents, when they do drink their consumption is higher than all other ages, in other words they are binging. Findings like this are going towards shaping the UK government’s commitment to a national ‘Alcohol Strategy’ to cut down binge drinking, violence and damaging levels of health. This strategy is led by pressure group Alcohol Concern who campaign for children to see less alcohol advertising and who believe that children aged 10-15 years in the UK see 11% more alcohol ads than over 25 year olds.
This sort of reckless advertising will eventually see the introduction of strict laws and rules and the end to the flexibility that the self-regulated UK advertising industry has always enjoyed.