Irish Examiner, 20 March 2023; Cormac O’Keefee 

Alcohol Action Ireland says the alcohol industry may be getting around laws aimed at protecting children by advertising the zero-alcohol variant of their brands. Stock picture: Ian Rolfe/Alamy 

The Department of Health or the HSE should take legal action to test if the alcohol industry is circumventing laws aimed at protecting children through its marketing of zero-alcohol products, a charity has said.

Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) said these products use the same logo and trademark of the parent alcohol brand and claim this breaches Irish health legislation. The Department of Health said minister Stephen Donnelly had asked officials, as reported in May 2023, to review if advertisements for zero-alcohol products were being used to promote full-strength brands. The department told the Irish Examiner it was examining the evidence base “with a view to developing legislation”, but said any issue on legal enforcement of the law was up to local HSE environment health officers.

AAI said that while alcohol advertising is banned on a sports pitch during a game, communications for zero-alcohol versions were common throughout the Six Nations rugby tournament which finished at the weekend. It said that, under the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, “advertising” means any form of commercial communication with the aim, or direct or indirect effect, of promoting an alcohol product. In a statement, the AAI said: “Sect 15 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 bans alcohol advertising “in or on the sports field of play” during a sports event, but to watch the Six Nations rugby tournament you would not know there had been any change to the law. “This is because the industry simply tacked a 0.0 onto its commercial communications, a move which Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has described [in May 2023] as ‘cynical’.” It said the alcohol industry must be challenged over its alleged “continued and egregious flouting of the law”.

The CEO of AAI, Sheila Gilheany, said: “A case must be taken to test this in court. We would be keen to find out if the HSE and/or the Department of Health is going to take action on this and if not, why not. We believe that the HSE could take a very strong case against the alcohol industry to test this in the courts and should be supported in this by the Government. AAI said research showed that alcohol brand references are occurring at a rate of one in every eight seconds during high profile rugby matches — a sport, the charity claimed, which appears “to have been entirely captured by alcohol”. It said Diageo’s alcohol brand Guinness now also sponsors the women’s Six Nations rugby tournament, which begins this week. 

The HSE referred queries on the matter to the Department of Health. In a statement, the department said: “Enforcement of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act is a matter for the designated enforcement authority, the Environmental Health Service of the Health Service Executive.

“The Minister for Health has asked officials to review if advertisements for zero-alcohol products are being used to promote full-strength brands. The Department of Health is examining the evidence base with a view to developing legislation.”

Original article

Post Navigation