ABFI Statement in response to Lancet Study

Friday, 24 August 2018

ABFI is committed to encouraging responsible choices about alcohol.

Many choices in life carry potential risks and benefits. The HSE has developed low-risk drinking guidelines to provide guidance on moderate alcohol consumption. ABFI calls on the Minister for Health and the HSE to place a much greater emphasis on raising awareness about the low-risk guidelines rather than introducing certain measures proposed in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill that are unlikely to tackle alcohol misuse and harmful consumption.

ABFI believes moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a well-balanced lifestyle.

Head of the Irish Whiskey Association, William Lavelle, said “The Lancet Study published today is one of a number of reports published in recent weeks and months outlining the pros and cons of drinking. With such a volume of conflicting evidence, it is hardly surprising that people might be confused about what is a safe level of drinking.

“The Lancet Study suggests that there is no safe level of drinking which contradicts the findings of other scientific studies which have found that moderate consumption can result in improved health outcomes. It is unrealistic to suggest that people should just stop drinking, however, it is important that there is an overall better awareness about the HSE low-risk guidelines.

“The HSE low-risk drinking guidelines provide guidance on moderate consumption. A recent survey by DrinkAware, however, found that only 3% of adults could correctly identify the HSE’s low-risk guidelines. The Department of Health consistently suggests that the Alcohol Bill will be a panacea to our problems with alcohol misuse, however, we believe that some of the measures contained in the Bill are poorly targeted and are unlikely to do anything to tackle alcohol misuse.

“The proposal to impose cancer warning on alcohol product labels is a major concern. No other country in the world has introduced mandator cancer warnings on alcohol products. Such a move will cause serious harm to the reputation of the Irish drinks industry, will harm Ireland’s reputation for producing high quality food and drinks products, yet is unlikely to do anything to combat alcohol misuse or harmful drinking. The relationship between alcohol and cancer risk is complex and cannot be adequately explained in a single warning label.

“Rather than introducing cancer warning labels, as proposed in the Public Health Alcohol Bill, it would be much more beneficial for the HSE to run a properly funded campaign to raise awareness about the HSE drinking guidelines so that people are aware of this advice.”

In Ireland alcohol consumption has declined by 23.3% since 2003, according to the CSO and Revenue Commissioner date. Ireland has made significant progress in tackling underage drinking, whereby lifetime use has declined by 15% between 1995 and 2015, according to ESPAD. These declines have happened in the absence of the Public Health (Alcohol) 2015 and show that real and tangible progress is being made on tackling alcohol misuse.

ABFI supports the overall objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to tackle alcohol misuse and underage drinking. However, we believe that some of the measures contained in the Alcohol Bill are poorly targeted and are unlikely to achieve their intended outcome. We are calling on the Government to remove the requirement to impose mandatory cancer warnings on alcohol products because the relationship between alcohol and cancer risk is complex and cannot be explained in a single warning label. Alternative measures that are less harmful to trade, such as public information campaigns, education initiatives and specific targeted interventions, should be used to help tackle misuse.