Friday, 16 April 2021

Less drinking, more problems - the lockdown alcohol "paradox"

I was on the Irish radio station Today FM yesterday talking about alcohol policy and lockdown drinking habits. I was up against someone from the Alcohol Health Alliance, an organisation that was specifically set up by the state-funded pressure group Alcohol Action Ireland "to support the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill". Sockpuppetry doesn't get much more blatant than that.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Act, as it now is, includes a number of hardline temperance policies including various advertising bans, minimum pricing, and a retail display ban (the latter is the first in Europe and is know in Ireland as the 'Booze Burka'). 

Minimum pricing still hasn't been introduced because the government doesn't want even more drinkers flocking over the border for cheaper alcohol, so it's been waiting for Northern Ireland to introduce it first. They've been waiting a while and may have to wait a lot longer.

A report was published by the Health Research Board this week calling for various other temperance laws, taxes and regulations. It reported that alcohol consumption fell by 6 per cent last year, largely due to the pubs being closed most of the time. It also reported that the Irish are still drinking more than the 9.1 litres per capita that the government has set as its target. Don't ask me why the government has a target for this, nor why it picked such a specific figure.

That was the background of the interview. I pointed out that England also saw a fall in alcohol consumption during lockdown but that alcohol-related deaths spiked at the same time. My opponent from the Alcohol Health Alliance was so wedded to the whole population approach that he couldn't get his around that, but I wouldn't be surprised if Ireland doesn't see the same combination of lower consumption and more harm when its figures are published.

You can listen to the interview here.

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