Four out of ten national schools and half of secondary schools have at least one outlet selling alcohol within 300 metres of their school gates, according to a new study. While the typical number of outlets was two, the highest number was 73 for a national school and 50 for a secondary school. Health experts said the figures revealed a “high density” of liquor licences near schools in Ireland and that this was linked to increased childhood exposure to alcohol marketing and normalisation of alcohol use.
The study was conducted by Anne Doyle, attached to the Health Research Board, and Frank Houghton, Technological University of the Shannon, Limerick. Their geographical analysis of all 3,231 primary and all 727 secondary schools and liquor licence details from Revenue found:
- 44% of all schools in Ireland have at least one alcohol outlet within 300 metres – 43% of primary schools and 52% of secondary schools;
- The typical number of outlets was two, while the highest number was 73 for primary schools and 50 for secondary schools.
The study, detailed in the Irish Journal of Medical Science, said high alcohol outlet density was associated with increased price competition. It said this made alcohol more affordable, with a significant influence on alcohol-related harm, through violence and injuries, drink-driving, disorderly conduct and property damage. The study said that at least three people die every day as a result of alcohol use in Ireland and that harms from alcohol were “widespread and well-publicised”.
It said the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 was introduced to address the high and harmful level of alcohol use and that delaying and preventing alcohol use among children was “central” to the legislation.
The study said the sale of alcohol in the vicinity of schools has been shown to “increase childhood exposure” to alcohol marketing, normalise alcohol use, lead to earlier alcohol initiation, influence education performance and increase rates of school absenteeism. It added: “Although the Public Health (Alcohol) Act prohibits alcohol advertising in close proximity to schools, the Sale of Alcohol Bill 2022 proposes to remove the limit on the number of licences that can be issued thereby potentially increasing outlet density.
“Given the high density of liquor licences within the vicinity of schools in Ireland and the evidence that such intoxigenic environments have a negative impact on young people’s lives, it is important that public health be prioritised to limit alcohol accessibility and availability amongst schoolchildren including establishing minimum distances between schools and licences or restricting the number of licences in localities.”