Today, two more elements of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill come into effect.
The bill, which was passed by the Dáil in 2018, contains a number of provisions aimed at reducing alcohol harm in Ireland.
Some of the measures are already in place, while there is no clear timeline for others. Here’s a breakdown of the new measures, and what they’ll mean in practice.
What changes today? Sections 15 and 16 come into force today. Both are concerned with the advertising of alcohol at sporting events. Under Section 15, all alcohol advertising in/on a sports area during a sports event is prohibited. Furthermore, alcohol advertising at an event for children, or at which the majority of participants or competitors are children, is also prohibited.
Alcohol Action Ireland pointed to a recent analysis conducted by the University of Stirling, which found that a child viewing a match broadcast during the 2020 Six Nations rugby championship was likely to receive alcohol promotion every 15 seconds.
AAI said that the new measure has the potential to reduce by half the exposure of children to such advertising.
And what else? Section 16, meanwhile, prohibits the sponsorship of certain events, where that sponsorship has the aim or effect of promoting an alcohol product or alcohol brand, or the consumption of alcohol. It also prohibits the sponsorship of events aimed at children, events at which the majority of participants or competitors are children, and events that involve driving or racing motor vehicles. Flouting these laws could result in a fine of up to €250,000, three years in prison, or both, according to the legislation.
Stephen Donnelly, the health minister, said these restrictions are designed to “protect our children from exposure to alcohol marketing as part of their everyday lives”.
What has already been enacted? One visible enactment of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which came into force one year ago today, was the ‘booze curtain’ in shops and off-licences that serve alcohol. It means that alcohol products have to be kept in a separate area from other items in a shop. In many supermarkets, this has resulted in small doors between the alcohol and other items. In January, the use of bonus or loyalty card points to purchase alcohol at a reduced price was also banned.
Short-term promotions on alcohol, at a reduced price for three days or less, were also prohibited. Other measures enacted in 2019 prohibit the advertising of alcohol within 200m of a school, playground, or early years service. It’s also banned on trains and buses and in the cinema.
What’s still to come?
Some of the most significant aspects of the bill are yet to be enacted. Those include wholesale changes to the way alcohol advertising on television can be operated. Under the proposals, brands will become much more restricted in what they can show in adverts for alcohol. They will be able to show details of the drink itself, an image of the brand, its price, an “objective” description of its flavour, colour, and smell. It is likely that the narrative-heavy adverts for alcohol would no longer be possible under the terms of the bill. A broadcast watershed for alcohol adverts is also contained within the bill. On television, adverts for alcohol will be banned between 3am and 9pm. The provision of health warnings on all alcohol labels is also planned. Minimum-unit pricing on alcohol, also contained in the bill, is set to take effect in January next year.