Excise duties on alcohol should increase along with inflation, according to Alcohol Action Ireland.
The body was speaking after a new report from the alcohol industry found that beer sales continued to fall last year, as the pandemic saw further restrictions on the hospitality industry.
The Alcohol Ireland report found people drank 2.3% less beer last year than in 2020 – a year which saw a significant fall in sales on the year before.
Meanwhile, Revenue figures published in March suggested Irish drinking was at its lowest level in 20 years – down around 30% since the peak in 2001.
The figures showed alcohol consumption fell by 4.7% between 2020 and 2021 – after falling by 9.6% between 2019 and 2020.
Irish drinkers pay the second highest rate of excise on beer in the EU and the industry is calling for a reduction to “benefit hard-pressed consumers” who are dealing with the new minimum unit pricing measures and the rising cost of living.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Alcohol Action Ireland CEO Eunan McKinney rejected the call – insisting that a reduction would lead to an increase in drinking.
“We’re now making progress in relation to reducing alcohol use,” he said. “A reduction in excise would only simply make the product cheaper and if we make it cheaper, we are going to reintroduce that stimulus for demand.”
He said excise duty has not increased in Ireland in the past ten years, despite a 30% increase in the cost of living.
“Those excise duties are beginning to have less and less impact and what we have argued for consistently is that there should be a CPI index placed on those excise duties so they continue to have a relevancy in relation to the public health dimension,” he said.
“The purpose of excise duty in relation to products like beer and tobacco is to try and enhance the public health dimension to try and ensure there is less of these products consumed.
“If that’s the case, the excise duty should retain a relevancy to what is inflationary.”
Price of a pint
Figures from the CEO show that the price of a pint of stout, lager and cider have all increased by in the last decade.
The average price of a pint of stout is up 24.8% on what it was in 2012, a pint of lager is up 24.7% and a pint of cider is up 21.7%.
Public Health Alcohol
Mr McKinney suggested the reduction in drinking in Ireland over the last decade is down to the measures included in the Public Health (Alcohol) Act.
The act was passed in 2018 and began to be enacted in 2020. Minimum unit pricing only came in at the start of this year.
He said there are three more measures in the act to be implemented - health warnings on labels, health warnings in advertising and the watershed on alcohol advertising - that must be introduced.
“If those three measures were implemented, we think we would continue to enhance and support the endeavour of consumers to actually drink less alcohol,” he said.
“That would have enormous benefits to our society. Remember, the low-risk guidelines suggest we should be drinking somewhere around seven litres a year. We are still drinking about ten litres per year.”
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