New legislation aimed at getting people to drink less is being debated by the Seanad this afternoon. The Public Health Alcohol Bill would restrict advertising, change shop layouts and introduce minimum pricing.
This bill is being strongly backed by the Taoiseach and Health Minister, but has faced some opposition within government and has been blocked in the past by Fine Gael Senators.
The new laws would ban advertising drink on public transport or near schools. Drink promotions in shops would be targeted, and minimum unit pricing will be introduced in a bid to do away with cheap alcohol. Alcohol would also have to be separated from other products in small shops, and needs to be hidden from view.
Anne Martin who runs Centra in Mountrath, Co. Laois says the changes could mean job losses:
"It's going to be totally unworkable and onerous for me. I'm going to have to completely re-jig my shop at the cost of at least €20K."
Lobby groups for the alcohol industry have opposed the bill on a number of grounds. One being that people have a right to buy whatever they want and not feel ashamed about it. Dr John Hillery, President of the College of Psychiatrists, doesn't believe that'll happen:
"I think most of the supermarkets have ways of getting us to buy things that we may not have thought of buying. We are just saying alcohol should not be one of those because it's the only real poison on sale - if used inappropriately."
The bill is due to be debated by the Seanad this afternoon.
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