The Public Health Alcohol Bill was published on 9 December 2015 and provides for the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol at around €1 per unit and restrictions on the advertising of alcohol.
As a result of the Bill the advertisement of alcohol will be very restricted. Among the places where a blanket ban on advertising will apply are schools and early-years services; local authority playgrounds; train stations; and bus and Luas stops. The Bill also requires shops to store alcohol away from other products as another element to advertising restrictions.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland General Commercial Communications Code will include a broadcasting watershed of 9pm for alcohol-related advertisements and the Broadcasting Act 2009 will be amended to ensure the Minister for Health is consulted on all health-related aspects of the code. The Bill also involves a requirement for advertisements to include warnings about the harmful effects of alcohol consumption, in particular during pregnancy.
However, the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol may face a setback after the recent European Court of Justice judgment that similar plans in Scotland would breach EU law if less restrictive tax measures could be introduced instead. In response to that ruling Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, confirmed the Government would drive ahead with the introduction of minimum pricing as planned as the Bill was framed with the benefit of the similar views expressed in the opinion of the Advocate General in the same case.
The proposed legislation, which is expected to be passed by the middle of 2016, is set to face considerable lobbying from concerned parties making it an interesting development to follow throughout 2016.