Irish people are spending more of their income on alcohol than any other country in Europe, a shocking study revealed today.
Irish households spend three time more on alcohol – with an average of €1,675 spent a year. The closest country in the spending stakes was Denmark – at €531.
Alcohol Action Ireland chairwoman, Marion Rackard, said: “We urgently need action on alcohol.
"This report points the way. Action needs political courage as we are dealing with not just an irresistible pleasure but with massive vested interest.”
The 400-page study by the London-based Institute of Alcohol Studies for the European Commission found Ireland had one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the EU and had the biggest binge-drinkers in Europe.
Around 32% of Irish 15 to 16-year-olds engage in binge drinking at least three times a month.
The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) said the report made no allowance for the fact part of Ireland’s spending on alcohol could be explained by the high levels of tax on alcohol.
A spokesman for the drinks industry group said: “The vast majority of adults enjoy alcohol in a mature, responsible manner, and while the industry accepts that there are issues with alcohol abuse among a relatively small percentage of people, we do not accept that measures should be introduced which will penalise everyone in a crude attempt to target a limited problem.”
The report, which pointed to Europe as the heaviest drinking region in the world, highlighted the scale of alcohol-related harm.
The European Commission said this report ‘Alcohol in Europe: a public health perspective’ was just one of several commissioned by it to inform it’s thinking on a policy paper on alcohol and health.
As well as the negative effects for the drinker, the report found 10,000 bystanders or passengers were killed by drink driving, 2,000 murders each year are drink related, it was responsible for 60,000 underweight births and five to nine million children living in families ravaged by alcohol.
Ms Rackard said: “This report for the first time highlights the impact that alcohol is having not just on drinkers but on those around them.
“The effect of smoking on third parties has now been accepted as an important public health problem, this report shows that the effect of alcohol on third parties is potentially far more serious and wide-ranging.”
Alcohol was blamed for causing 7.4% of all ill-health and early death in the EU at a cost of €125bn, over €650 for every household each year.
The report highlights the need for a crackdown on drink driving, ensuring alcohol is not sold too cheaply or easily marketed.
The author, Dr Peter Anderson, said: “What really makes the need for action so urgent is that we know ‘what works’ in reducing this toll.
“All we need now is the will to do something about it.”