Thursday, 5 January 2023 ; ; Seoirse Mulgrew 

Alcohol Action Ireland is calling for legislation to protect children from “harmful alcohol marketing practices” to be commenced. It says Diageo, a multinational alcoholic beverage company, is the number four advertiser to Ireland’s children. It said at least 50,000 children in Ireland start to drink every year and 37pc of 15 to 24-year-olds have an “alcohol use disorder”.

“We are calling on the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly and the new Minister of State for Public Health, Hildegarde Naughton, to make this a priority in 2023 given the inordinate delay in implementing this low cost, effective measure,” the charity said.

Alcohol Action Ireland published the findings of an opinion poll, conducted by Ireland Thinks, on November 17. The findings show that 70pc of people back stopping alcohol adverts from being shown on TV before 9pm and 68pc back restrictions to limit what alcohol advertising children see and hear. Some 66pc of respondents back stopping alcohol adverts from being streamed on social media channels. contacted Diageo but the company said it had no comment. 

In 2018, the Oireachtas passed the Public Health Alcohol Act, (PHAA) which prohibits broadcasting of alcohol advertising before the 9pm watershed.

Dr. Sheila Gilheany (photo), CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, said four years on, this measure has not yet been put in place. Alcohol marketing “perpetuates the social norm that alcohol is an ordinary product”.

“Ireland has a profoundly unhealthy relationship with alcohol, which is a psychoactive substance that has huge human and financial implications across society in Ireland,” she said.

“Alcohol marketers mispresent alcohol as a safe product that brings happiness, success, friendship and more, with no apparent risks or side effects. “It is also a significant tool in recruiting new drinkers, hence the importance of restrictions around marketing to children. “Evidence demonstrating the harmful nature of alcohol marketing is now comprehensive and well documented. There is no doubt that alcohol advertising to adults and children increases use and normalises the consumption of this harmful product.”

Figures from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland show that seven out of 10 of the top programmes watched by children are big sporting events. Many of these programmes are sponsored by alcohol companies, have “extensive” alcohol advertising associated with them and are shown before 9pm Alcohol Action Ireland said.

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