Ireland has received the green light to go ahead with the measure to place health warning labels on all alcohol products, after a deadline passed for the European Commission to oppose it. Once implemented all alcohol products will contain three warnings including that alcohol causes liver disease, is a risk to the fetus during pregnancy, and that alcohol causes fatal cancers.
Dublin informed the Commission of its intention in last year and did not receive an objection during a six-month moratorium period.
In June 2022, the Government of Ireland submitted an application to the European Commission notifying about the draft Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2022. This is the first step in the process of implementing mandatory health warning labels on all alcohol product packaging in Ireland.
These regulations will ensure that no alcohol product can be sold without bearing a warning that informs the public that:
- “Drinking alcohol causes liver disease”
- Displays a health symbol intended to inform the public of the danger of alcohol consumption when pregnant, and
- “There is a direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers”
- In addition, the regulations make it mandatory that the alcohol and calorie content within the product is stated, and that the public health alcohol information website ‘askaboutalcohol.ie’ is displayed.
The European Commission is now giving the green light, meaning DG GROW (internal market division) and DG SANTE (health division) and all other departments support Ireland’s to protect its population from alcohol harm through evidence-based public health solutions.
The way is now clear for the Irish Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to sign these provisions into law.
Commenting on the development, Alcohol Action Ireland CEO, Dr Sheila Gilheany, said:
The labelling regulations are ground-breaking and have been warmly welcomed by public health authorities and advocates globally. Indeed 70% of the submissions to the EU TRIS consultation process on this matter have been highly supportive of the measure. Opposing comments were from the alcohol industry.
This measure has been extensively debated in the Oireachtas, was democratically mandated in 2018 and has very strong public support with 72% indicating in a recent poll that consumers have a right to be informed on the product and in advertising of the health risk from alcohol use.
With 1000 alcohol related cancer diagnoses every year but unfortunately low levels of public awareness of the risks as well as high levels of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and liver disease it is important that there is no further delay on implementing this measure.
We are aware of other jurisdictions such as Norway which are now proposing similar steps around cancer warnings on alcohol products. Ireland as a country can take great pride in leading the way.”Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO, Alcohol Action Ireland
Aggressive alcohol industry lobbying against public health policy in Ireland
Politico has reported that nine EU countries have effectively doenthe dirty work for the alcohol industry by objecting to the alcohol health warning labelling in Ireland. The main talking points by the alcohol industry circle around single market grounds, while also arguing that it undermined the EU’s planned harmonized approach to alcohol labeling. These countries are some of Europe’s biggest alcohol producers, including France, Spain and Italy.
As Dr Gilheany said in her statement, the public, civil society organizations, communities have welcomed the alcohol health warning label and are overwhelmingly supportive – as a recent public consultation period illustrated.
Politico reported that France submitted an opinion underlining that Paris supports an “ambitious” approach toward addressing alcohol harms. But it also claimed:
Nevertheless, the French authorities believe that the draft regulation proposed by the Irish authorities is not compatible with European Union law.”France opinion
Politico also reported that Italy argued the bill is contrary to EU law, as it would be an obstacle to the free movement of goods.
The wine industry is afraid it cannot keep people in the dark any longer that their products are causing seven types of cancer – and other harms.
The alcohol industry in general and the wine industry in particular have a shocking track record in Europe of opposing and undermining public health policy solutions that would protect more people from alcohol harm.
Already in early 2021, as the European Union (EU) was considering which health warning labels to put on alcohol products, following direction from the EU Beating Cancer Plan, the alcohol industry launched an aggressive fight against labeling, using tactics of muddying the science and using their own corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives against this proven effective public health measure.
And one year later, alcohol industry lobbying succeeded in making the alcohol policy elements of the report prepared by the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) the most controversial of the entire parliamentary debate. Out of 70 MEPs speaking, 25 MEPs specifically talked about alcohol and many of those echoed Big Alcohol talking points and myths. Alarmingly, most of the comments from party groups ID and EPP were repetitions of alcohol industry talking points.
The European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) is expressed its support for the European Commission giving the green light for alcohol product labelling in Europe and in doing so respecting the public’s right to know about alcohol harm.
The European Commission has shown the EU offers Member States the flexibility they need to inform their population about the risks of alcohol,” said Florence Berteletti, Secretary General of Eurocare, as per the Eurocare website.
This leaves the way open for other countries to follow Ireland’s lead in respecting its citizens’ right to know about alcohol harm.”Florence Berteletti, Secretary General, Eurocare
Many Irish people who engage in binge alcohol consumption or who are dependent on alcohol are not aware of their level of alcohol use and underestimate their own alcohol consumption and the harms that come with it. This is concerning since this group of people is the most at risk of experiencing alcohol harm.
Special Feature: Alcohol Warning Labelling, How it works and why it’s needed
Movendi International and our members support Health Warning Labeling on Alcohol Products in Ireland.
Movendi International and our member organizations have made submissions to the European Commission to support health warning labeling on alcohol products in Ireland.
Movendi International has also developed a briefing about alcohol warning labeling, compiling state-of-the-art evidence.
This special feature covers alcohol warning labeling, how it works and why it’s needed. Movendi International presents:
- Best practice alcohol labeling examples,
- How labelling works, and
- Alcohol industry interference against health warning labeling on alcohol products.
Public Health (Alcohol) Act of Ireland
The Public Health (Alcohol) Act was adopted into law in 2018 in the Republic of Ireland. The government has taken a stage-wise approach and is making steady progress in implementing the different provisions of the Act.
- In 2019, several improvements regarding alcohol marketing rules stipulated by the Act came into force, including bans on advertising in public transport, 200 meters from a school, creche, or local authority playground, in cinemas except for films that are classified as over 18 and on children’s clothing.
- In November 2020, section 22 of the Act came into force which saw the separation of alcohol in specified licensed premises.
- The introduction of this regulation is part of a process to de-normalize alcohol as an ordinary grocery product.
- On January 11, 2021 section 23 of the Act came into force.
- This meant the implementation of measures to de-normalize alcohol in Irish society by banning multi-buy deals, short-term price promotions and loyalty points for alcohol products.
- On November 12, 2021 section 15 which prohibits alcohol advertising in the sports area and section 16 which prohibits alcohol sponsorship came into force.
- On January 4, 2022, section 11 which is the minimum unit pricing (MUP) policy came into effect.
European Alcohol Policy Alliance: “Eurocare welcomes EU alcohol labelling go-ahead“
Wanted in Rome: “Italian wine producers slam Ireland’s ‘alarmist’ health warning labels“
Politico: Brussels Playbook, from January 6, 2023