Opinion: Why Hiking Alcohol Prices is an Outrage

The government is looking to introduce another price hike for alcohol in what is becoming an annual siege upon the pockets of drinkers.


A continued desperate attempt to fight off the drunken Paddy stereotype we’re annually looking to vilify alcohol in what the government sees is the only solution to dealing with alcohol related death.


Yes, Minister for Health, Simon Harris was correct in saying the more we drink, the more it has ill-effects on our health, but in typical monochromatic fashion the government sees that the only way to deal with any issue in Ireland is to tax it, and continue taxing it.


In an informal poll carried out by the Irish Independent placed in the middle of their article covering this issue, 76% of almost 16,000 people said the proposed increases in alcohol prices would not affect their drinking habits.


While Irish Independent poles are not based in scientific fact, it shows a general attitude amongst people today – price doesn’t matter.


Rather than investigate the cause of why Irish people can have a negative relationship with alcohol, the government seeks to demonise the act of drinking and punish the drinkers, by hitting them where it hurts – their pockets.


Of course, the Dáil doesn’t have to worry about increased prices hitting their pockets because they will just inevitably hit up the Dáil bar and leave an astronomical bar tab that they won’t pay for.


I find it incredibly patronizing that our Taoiseach will say we as a people have an issue with drink yet will let an elected TD run up a bar tab of €1,500 in the months of July and August, of which the Dáil only sat for eight days.


If you ask me Taoiseach, I think you should sort out the issues you see within your own Dáil before you start patronising the rest of the Irish public who, you know, actually pay for what they consume.


The aim, by increasing the cost of cheaper cans in our supermarkets, is supposedly to curb the health issues associated with drink.


Proponents of the bill brought forward figures suggesting that alcohol has played a major contributing role in suicide, thus by increasing the cost and reducing the availability of alcohol, this is a form of suicide prevention.


It is disgusting to suggest that by increasing the cost of cheap alcohol you are engaging in a form of suicide prevention and it is offensive to families that have been affected by suicide.


Suicide is a complex issue that shouldn’t be politicised to advance one’s agenda. Liam Fay of the Times brought up the point of how suicide rates in Ireland decreased by nearly a quarter as our economy improved from 2011 to 2015.


I find it outrageous that the government believes by increasing the cost of alcohol they will be helping to address the issues surrounding suicide. Rather than actually devote time and resources into support networks and understanding the relationship between alcohol and suicide, they would be happier to just make it a bit more expensive.


Alcohol related death is rife throughout Europe regardless of price, so simple common sense would show that price is unrelated to the amount of alcohol we consume.


At the beginning of this year Eurostat, the EU’s official statistics body, found that the average price of a pint in Ireland is 75% higher compared with the European average.


In 2014, the World Health Organisation Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health found that in 2010, 39% of Irish people across both sexes participated in heavy episodic drinking in the past 30 days.


Compare this with Portugal, where in 2010 the price of a pint was approximately €1.90, 20.4% of the population across both sexes participated in heavy episodic drinking in the past 30 days – almost half of what it was in Ireland.


If price really had an impact on alcohol consumption than those figures would be the other way around, and Portugal would have the higher binge drinking rate than Ireland.


If the government’s main directive in increasing the price of cheap alcohol and introducing unit pricing is to encourage responsible drinking, a reduction of suicide, and increased health if its citizens, then invest the money made from this into our health services and education around alcohol.


It is clear we as a nation have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol but it is time to stop thinking that the only way to solve it is by increasing the price of it. By increasing the price of alcohol you are once again restricting the social life of people who do not abuse alcohol and just are out to enjoy an evening.


It is just another form of regressive tax where the government pretends to be doing something for the greater good of our society when in actual fact it is just doing something that will line the nation’s coffers without actually being true leaders and getting to the heart of the issue.


Peter Stears



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