The North West Alcohol Forum has backed calls from the Vinters Federation of Ireland to introduce minmum pricing for alcohol to preserve the irish pub and improve the alcohol culture in the country.
The organisation, which works across Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim, says work carried out at the University of Sheffield found that introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol reduced levels of alcohol consumption by 10.3 per cent among harmful drinkers and 3.8 per cent among moderate drinkers.
Research in Ireland shows that there has been a 305% increase in the number of off-licences between 1998 and 2009 and over the same time period pub licences have decreased by 32%. In 2009, the average cost of a 500ml can of lager from the off-licence was €1.80 while the average price of a pint of lager in the pub was €4.50. The off-licence sector accounted for half of the alcohol market share in 2008 and given the much cheaper price of alcohol in the off-licence the volume of alcohol sold from the off-licence was much greater than that sold over the bar counter. Much of this increase was in mixed trade premises (supermarkets, convenience stores and garage forecourts) which have used large discounting of alcohol products and alcohol price-based promotions to encourage people into their premises.
Director of NWAF, Eamon O’Kane, said there is clear international evidence that a minimum price for alcohol will dramatically assist a reduction in alcohol consumption. “A focus on minimum pricing is about reducing volume sales of alcohol. In Ireland the pattern of alcohol purchasing has shifted from the pub to the off-licence and supermarkets in particular. A way to reduce binge drinking and teenage drinking would be to support this call by the Vintners’ Federation. A well run pub can offer a regulated and appropriately priced alcohol vending that removes the need for expensive legislative minimum pricing processes.”
Chair of the Donegal Vintners’ Group, Martin Gibbons, said: “Commercially it is clear that we cannot compete with the low prices charged by supermarkets and if the practice continues Ireland will lose the pub as a key venue for the responsible and controlled sale of alcohol. Publicans are under severe pressure with turnover down between 20% and 40%, many pubs will close if something is not done”.
Mr O’Kane concluded:“It may seem ironic to some that we should be advocating for the pub but we have never been an organisation that is anti alcohol. Our belief has always been that alcohol has a place in society; our concern however lies in the irresponsible and reckless way in which it is sold and consumed. A concerted effort by whatever means to reduce high volume, low cost sales coupled with mandatory responsible server of alcohol training will undoubtedly save lives and reduce the negative experiences of alcohol in Ireland.”