ALCOHOL abuse is costing the country more in terms of health and justice spending every year than the latest austerity budget will shave off the national debt, according to an LIT lecturer.
Dr Frank Houghton, who has worked in public health with the HSE and in New Zealand, said that while alcohol price increases introduced by Michael Noonan earlier this month would help to some degree, the government needed to think much more radically.
“In the context of an austerity budget which introduced tax increases and spending cuts totalling €3.6 billion, it is important to note that avoidable alcohol-related health and crime costs have been estimated in Ireland at €3.7 billion annually,” Dr Houghton said.
“The latest budget increases in the price of wine, spirits and beer will help slightly. However, let’s be honest the large supermarkets can absorb these costs. There are wider issues that need to be tackled. Three essential measures are required immediately: the introduction of minimum pricing for alcoholic drinks; a ban on all alcohol sponsorship; the introduction of a trace-back system for off-sales to identify those premises selling alcohol to under-age youths.”
In an editorial in the latest edition of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, Dr Houghton described the government’s alcohol policy as “a perfect demonstration of the absence of leadership”.
The country’s alcohol crisis was evident from various findings which included the death of an Irish person every seven hours from alcohol-related causes. One quarter of the deaths of Irish men aged between 15 and 34 were down to alcohol.
And Dr Houghton said that on any one night, 2,000 beds in Irish hospitals were occupied by people admitted for reasons related to alcohol use and abuse.