It’s enough to make even the most hardened drinker think about becoming a teetotaler.
Fresh from an assault on their previously inalienable right to light up in pubs throughout Ireland, drinkers are now facing the prospect of cigarette-style health warnings on bottles and cans of alcohol.
The Irish health ministry confirmed on Monday it was considering introducing warning labels on alcohol in an effort to persuade binge drinkers to sober up, after surveys showed the Irish are among the world’s highest per capita drinkers.
The latest move follows a ban on “happy hours” and a tightening up of regulations covering underage drinkers in pubs.
Officials are also reviewing alcohol advertising campaigns and promotions which target young people.
A health ministry spokesman denied the proposed crackdown would turn Ireland into a “nanny state,” given the imminent ban on smoking in the workplace.
“The motivation behind these measures is public health and nothing else,” he added.
Government figures estimate that alcohol-related problems cost Ireland about $2.7 billion a year in costs for health care, crime, road accidents, and lost productivity.
Doctors in favor
A clampdown has been backed by the country’s health profession with three-quarters of doctors favouring warning labels similar to those found on cigarette packets, according to a survey in the Irish Medical Times.
However, the spirits industry gave a less favourable response and said an extension of health warnings on cigarettes to alcohol made little sense.
“Alcohol, when consumed moderately, does not cause any harm and so a health warning wouldn’t make much sense in a straightforward sense,” said Pat Barry, director of corporate affairs at Diageo Plc, brewers of the traditional Irish beer Guinness.
Not only had the industry joined together to promote sensible drinking, but advertising campaigns were now carefully vetted, Barry added.
But his argument is unlikely to hold much sway with the government, already set to stamp out smoking in pubs and restaurants next year despite massive opposition from the hospitality industry.
The smoking ban had been due to start at the beginning of January but has been delayed until March at the earliest to allow for prisons and psychiatric hospitals to be exempted.