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New Study: Ireland’s Public Health Alcohol Act – Spatial Issues & Glaring Gaps

Dr. Frank Houghton, Limerick Institute of Technology, founder member of ACORN, summarises his new study for ACORN.

Ireland’s Public Health (Alcohol) Act of 2018 represents a welcome addition to the ongoing struggle to contain Ireland’s problematic relationship with alcohol. However, crucial deficits in this legislation continue to limit its full potential. Most obviously, these include the lack of any indication of a date of commencement for the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol, and a similar absence in relation to the mandatory introduction of alcohol warnings on such beverages.

Concerns also exist around ‘intoxigenic’ (ie drunkenness inducing) environments in Ireland, given the pervasiveness of alcohol advertising. This issue is particularly important in relation to children and youths. The Act will restrict alcohol advertising at sporting venues and local authority parks, as well as in taxis, trains or buses, or at events targeted at children. These developments are positive. However, a number of other elements in this legislation are inadequate and appear rather perfunctory. For example, although there is now an exclusion zone on alcohol advertising around schools, crèches, and local authority playgrounds, under current legislation this zone is a meagre 200m. This exclusion zone obviously needs to be extended to at least 400m, and ideally to at least 500m.

The current legislation also involves exemptions to this exclusion zone for licensed premises and alcohol manufacturers and wholesalers. However, these exemptions are both inappropriate and unnecessary and serve only to perpetuate the pervasiveness of alcohol in Irish streetscapes. Finally, although the current list of premises with advertising exclusion zones is an important start, it is equally clear that many more locations should equally be afforded such protected zones. Obvious examples include health, medical and social care work facilities, as well both civic (eg.libraries & community centres) and entertainment venues routinely visited by children (eg. cinemas, theatres, zoos, wildlife parks, and swimming pools).

For more information see Houghton & McInerney (2020) The Public Health (Alcohol) Act: Spatial issues and glaring gaps. Irish Geography. 53(2). DOI: 10.2014/igj.v53i2.1423 The Public Health (Alcohol) Act: spatial issues and glaring gaps. – Drugs and Alcohol