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Monday, February 20, 2012


Alcohol plays a complex role in Irish society. It is associated with many aspects of Irish
social and cultural life and is generally consumed for enjoyment, relaxation and sociability. The pub often plays an important role in community life and is an attraction for tourists. More broadly, alcohol plays a significant role in the Irish economy by generating employment, tax income and export income.

However, alcohol is no ordinary commodity. It has major public health implications and it is responsible for a considerable burden of health and social harm at individual, family and societal levels. Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that can impair motor skills and judgement, and its impacts on the individual can be at various points across a spectrum. It is a drug of dependence and can act as a gateway to the use of illicit drugs
for some people. Polydrug use is now commonplace and those who drink alcohol and use other drugs place themselves at greater risk and make treatment responses morecomplicated. Binge drinking is also a common phenomenon in Ireland.

In recent years a significant shift has occurred in the share of alcohol sales, from pubs –which may provide a more controlled environment for the consumption of alcohol – to the off-trade sector (specialist off-licences and mixed trade outlets). Particular concerns arise in respect of supermarkets and other mixed trade outlets providing increased availability of alcohol and the normalisation of alcohol among a range of
products, and also in terms of these outlets using the discounting of alcohol products along with alcohol-based promotions to encourage people into their premises.

The Government decided in 2009 to include alcohol in a National Substance Misuse Strategy. Arising from this decision, a Steering Group (chaired by the Department of Health) was established to advise Ministers on a new Strategy. The Substance Misuse Strategy now being developed focuses on alcohol in particular and will be taken in conjunction with the National Drugs Strategy 2009–2016 as the overall National
Substance Misuse Strategy until the end of 2016. Thereafter it is envisaged that a single combined document will be involved.

A key aim of this Strategy is the promotion of healthier lifestyle choices throughout society in relation to alcohol. Given the range of health problems that can arise from alcohol consumption, or to which alcohol can be a contributory factor, a population health approach is being taken with a focus on reducing alcohol-related harm and the amount of alcohol we drink. While personal responsibility is of central importance in the management of alcohol use, the State can play a crucial role by intervening to prevent problems through addressing factors that cause difficulties and also through tackling the
negative consequences that arise when problems occur.

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