Industry hails ‘reasonable changes’ to Irish alcohol bill

17th September, 2018 by Amy Hopkins

Drinks producers across Ireland have welcomed proposed amendments to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill that would see distillery and brewery visitor centres made exempt from strict new advertising regulations.

Planned advertising restrictions could be loosened for Irish spirits producers

The changes put forward by a cross-party group of TDs (Irish members of parliament) would also remove the requirement for cancer warnings to be added to alcohol products.

The industry has been vocal in its criticism of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which in its current guise would mean that any advertisements for a distillery visitor centre would be unable to mention any alcohol brands by name. As such the bill could “hurt” the fast-growing Irish tourism industry.

“We expect to be launching our new visitor experience later this year, which over time will bring much needed extra business and revenue to the town of Clonakilty,” said Michael Scully, founder and CEO of Clonakilty Distillery in County Cork.

“If we are not able to advertise this without restrictions, our hands would be tied behind our backs before we even started, which is why these amendments are important.”

Industry body the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) called the TDs’ recommendations “reasonable amendments”.

“Nobody disagrees that alcohol misuse and underage drinking should be addressed,” said Patricia Callan, director of the ABFI. “But we need a piece of legislation that is effective, evidence-based and does not do undue harm to an important Irish industry.

“While we as an industry support the objectives of the bill, we are concerned about a number of proposed measures, and for some time have been calling for sensible amendments to be made to balance the bill.

“In particular, we are concerned about the proposal to add cancer warning labels to our quality products. This is because no other country in the world has mandatory cancer labels on alcohol products and legislating for them here would have a hugely negative reputational impact on our brands.”

The ABFI has also hit out at Alcohol Action Ireland’s “disingenuous” claim that “TDs are backing the alcohol industry ahead of people’s health”.

Callan added: “This is an important piece of legislation and TDs that have submitted these amendments are rightfully trying to get the bill right, not to delay it.

“For the Department of Health-funded Alcohol Action Ireland to claim that they are somehow delaying the legislation or disregarding public health is both disingenuous and false.

“I fail to see how deleting a cancer warning label or allowing tourists to see directional signage to visitor centres can be seen as promoting underage drinking or alcohol misuse.

“The fact that there is cross-party support for these amendments reflects the long and detailed debate on the bill and an acceptance of the need for reasonable and thoughtful amendments to be made.”

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