Uncertainty Looms Over Proposed Reform For Advertising Of Alcohol Products

Author:Mr Colin Kavanagh and Ciara Farrell
Profession:Arthur Cox

If enacted, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 (the "Bill") will result in a complete overhaul of the rules that regulate the pricing and sale of alcohol in Ireland as well as provide for restrictions in relation to the advertising and sponsorship of alcohol products.

The Bill most recently passed the Seanad (the Irish Senate) in December 2017 and has now been put before the Dáil (the main Irish legislative body) for debate and vote. It was introduced to the Dáil by the Minister for Health in February 2018. However, the Bill recently received a set-back following objections raised at the EU level, most notably to the requirement to label alcohol products with warnings as to the links between alcohol and cancer. The Bill will be delayed until at least July to give Member States and the Commission time to assess its compatibility with EU laws.

The Bill will include a number of reform packages which can be broadly summarised into four main areas:

Mandatory health labelling on all alcohol products; The regulation of advertising, marketing and sponsorship of alcohol products and brands; The introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol products; and The introduction of structural separation of alcohol products in trading outlets. MANDATORY HEALTH LABELLING

Of considerable significance, the Bill sets out certain warnings that must be contained on alcohol products, whether sold in a shop, pub or online. The warnings include public health warnings as to the dangers of alcohol consumption, the direct links between alcohol and fatal cancers, the details of the calories and alcohol content of the product, as well as specific reference to a dedicated website which will be established by the Health Service Executive to provide public health information on alcohol consumption.

Licensed premises are also required to display notices setting out some of the above-mentioned health warnings, and ensure a document is available on request that sets out the grams of alcohol and the calorie content of each alcohol product sold in a container without a label (e.g. draught beer or a glass of wine sold in an on-license premises).

The specific form (i.e., size, colour and font) of the health warnings and the manner in which details of the HSE website must be displayed are not yet clear, nor is it clear when this information will be available. It is expected that the Minister for Health will adopt secondary legislation on these aspects and that the...

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