The Public Health (Alcohol) Act was signed into law in 2018. It contains some of the most restrictive measures governing the sale, promotion, price and labelling of alcohol in the world. Overall, we support the objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act, to tackle alcohol misuse and underage drinking. We believe that measures introduced should be proportionate, evidence-based and effective. The Act is divided into 5 key areas:
- A minimum pricing of alcohol products;
- Mandatory labelling requirements on alcohol products and notices in licensed premises;
- Prohibitions and restrictions on advertising and sponsorship;
- Separation and visibility of alcohol products and advertisements for alcohol products in specified licensed premises; and
- The regulation of the sale and supply of alcohol products in certain circumstances.
Below is a summary of each of these areas along with a download option of the full Act. You can also access the full text of the Act via the Irish Statute Book.
The HSE have also prepared a guidance note on the Act which is available HERE.
The Act has set a minimum unit price of 10 cent per gram of alcohol in products sold in the Republic of Ireland (ROI). In the Programme for Government there is a commitment to introduce this measure at the same time as in Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish Minister for Health has stated they will likely enact this in autumn 2022. Once the two jurisdictions have enacted MUP then a commencement order will be signed by the Minister for Health giving a transition period, the exact length of which is to be confirmed.
The Act provides for the following information on the label of an alcohol product:
- A warning to inform the public of the danger of alcohol consumption;
- A warning to inform the public of the danger of alcohol consumption when pregnant;
- A warning to inform the public of the direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers;
- The quantity of grams of alcohol contained in the product;
- The energy value expressed in kilojoules and kilocalories contained in the alcohol product,
- Details of a website run by the Health Service Executive providing information on alcohol and related harms.
Alcohol products sold in kegs or casks will have an accompanying document with the above information. Licensed premises will have a notice(s) in the legally prescribed form with above warnings and website information, confirming that a document noting the alcohol content and energy value of every product for sale in the premises is available on request. Finally, the above information will also be required to be displayed on any website that sells alcohol online.
The government must draft secondary legislation (i.e. regulations) outlining the specific wording of the warning and must notify the EU Commission under the TRIS and FIC processes to allow all other member states to input their views during a three to six month stand still period. Following this the government will finalise the regulations and the Minister for Health will sign a commencement order with a three year transition period to full implementation.
This section of the Act is dedicated to the restrictions of how alcohol is promoted. It primarily focusses on restricting the content and placement advertisements that feature alcohol brands and products.
Since November 2019 the following promotional restrictions have commenced:
- Section 16 - Prohibiting the use of alcohol brands on children’s clothing. Children’s clothing and footwear cannot contain alcohol product names, images, logos, etc.
- Section 13 - Advertising in Certain Places. Advertising of alcohol products are prohibited in parks and public open spaces, on public transport (vehicles and stations), within 200 metres of the perimeter of a school, playground or a child services location.
- Section 18 - Cinema Advertising. Alcohol products are only permitted to be advertised at screenings of movies with an over 18 certification.
In November 2021 the following sections will commence:
- Section 18 - Advertising during events. Advertising of alcohol products will be prohibited in a sports arena during a sports event, or at events aimed primarily at children (those under the age of 18) or in which they are the majority of participants.
- Section 15 - Sponsorship with the aim of promoting alcohol products will be prohibited at events aimed primarily at children or in which they are the majority of participants, or at motor racing events. There is no prohibition on sponsorship of horse racing or dog racing, and of events aimed primarily at or involving adults.
Commencement Order to be signed by Minister for Health, following which there will be a 1 year transition period:
- Section 17 - Advertising in Print Media, with the exception of trade publications, a maximum of 20% of advertising space in a publication can be devoted to alcohol products.
- Section 19 - Advertising watershed restrictions which will see a ban on alcohol advertising on television between the hours of 3am and 9pm with radio alcohol advertising banned between midnight and 10am or 3pm and midnight on a weekday.
Following approval of health warnings (in advertisements and labels) by the European Commission, commencement order to be signed by Minister for Health, following which there will be a 1 year transition period:
- Section 13 - Content restrictions for all forms of advertising. this will include mandatory inclusion of adverts featuring cancer health warnings.
The Public Health (Alcohol) Act has implemented a range of restrictions to the visual display of alcohol products at mixed retail outlets. Section 22 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act outlines how alcohol may be displayed and advertised within a mixed retail outlet.
Section 22 states all alcohol must be displayed in a separate area of a retail outlet that is separated by a physical barrier which has a minimum height of not less than 1.2 metres and through which alcohol and advertisements for alcohol are not visible. Smaller retail outlets, one or more enclosed adjacent storage units on the shop floor in which the products are not visible up to a minimum height of 1.5 metres.
Mixed trade retailers can store alcohol products in a storage unit behind the counter at only one point of sale area and can also display and advertise alcohol products using one of the following three options:
- A separate area of the shop separated by a physical barrier which has a minimum height of not less than 1.2 metres and through which alcohol and advertisements for alcohol are not visible
- Enclosed adjacent storage units on the shop floor in which the products are not visible up to a minimum height of 1.5 metres
- A maximum of three adjacent units, each of 1 metre width and 2.2 metres high.
The Public Health (Alcohol) Act includes a range of restrictions on drinks promotions within retail outlets. Regulations issued under Section 23 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act prohibit the following:
- The award of, or use of bonus or loyalty card points in relation to the sale of alcohol products.
- The sale and advertisement of alcohol products at a reduced price or free of charge when sold with one or more alcohol products or another product or service.
- The sale and advertisement of alcohol products at a reduced price for a period of three days or less.