Every summer we see an increase in bars, off licenses and supermarkets who offer promotions on alcohol. The most irresponsible promotions are those which encourage people to drink more and faster. Promotions like these, such as “Drink all you can for £20” and “Buy one get one free” encourage people to drink more alcohol in a shorter amount of time, which increases the risk to their health. It also means they are more likely to have accidents, more likely to be a victim (or perpetrator) of assault, and more likely to have unsafe sex.
In the past, the drinks industry has regulated itself through voluntary codes of conduct, which has been ineffective and has led to a situation where bars target young adults with promotions that clearly encourage binge drinking. The next step to address this properly is to consider legislation.
Minister for Health, Michael McGimpsey has strongly advocated measures to restrict the consumption of alcohol for some time now. This issue runs across government departments and these current proposals – to develop legislation to regulate irresponsible drinks promotions - have come out of discussions between the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the DSD.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) has supported the Minister’s position as recently as June this year when Chief Executive, Dr Eddie Rooney raised the issue of minimum pricing at the Health Committee. Tackling a complex issue such as alcohol misuse will require the ongoing efforts of a range of agencies across many sectors working together.
How much people drink is related to the price of alcohol, and it is no surprise when we see how much more affordable alcohol has become in recent years, that 4/5 of adults who drink alcohol drink above sensible drinking guidelines.*
*Alcohol research carried out with adults in Northern Ireland in 2008 showed that 81% of those who had consumed alcohol in the week before the survey exceeded the recommended daily drinking guidelines (2-3 units per day for a female; 3-4 units per day for a male) (DHSSPS Adult Drinking Patterns Survey (2005 & 2008))