Other countries will soon follow Ireland in introducing laws around health warning labels on alcohol products, according to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.
The Government announced today it had signed the Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2023 into law, introducing warning labels on alcohol products.
“Ireland's going to be the first country in the world to bring in labels of this kind,” Mr Donnelly told Newstalk Breakfast.
“Very much like when we were the first country, under Micheál Martin, to bring in the smoking ban.”
Mr Donnelly, currently at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, said this law is “something that has been looked at around the world”.
“It’s something [those at the WHA] support and I think it's something we're going to see other countries take off,” he said.
Mr Donnelly explained the new labels will warn of the dangers of alcohol consumption – particularly in connection to risks of cancer.
“Many people enjoy a drink, and that's all good. But there are serious health implications,” he said. “The research we have is that most of us aren't aware of many of the health implications.”
Mr Donnelly said a national survey found that most Irish consumers do not understand the health risks of alcohol consumption.
Some 79% were unaware of the risk of breast cancer associated with drinking more than the recommended amounts and 60% were unaware of the bowel cancer risk.
When asked about the risks of consuming alcohol when pregnant, 7% of respondents believed it to be safe and 9% did not know.
“People have a right to know, and we have a responsibility to let people know what the health implications are,” Mr Donnelly argued.
According to the Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2023, the law will take effect in May 2026.
Mr Donnelly said the delay is in recognition of the fact Ireland is the first to implement this law, and it will influence alcohol production.
“It's to allow producers to get ready for this and to make sure that we don't end up inadvertently raising costs,” Mr Donnelly explained.
The Government previously introduced laws physically separating alcohol from other parts of a shop and placing tighter restrictions on advertising. They also introduced minimum unit pricing, increasing the price of alcohol.
He said health warnings are “the next of these measures” that aim to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland.