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.
What is Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP)?
Minimum unit pricing sets a minimum price of any alcoholic drink dependent on how much alcohol (in grams) is in it. Under minimum unit pricing, the lowest price that can be charged for a gram of alcohol is 10 cent.
How is MUP calculated?
Section 11 of the Act states that the MUP is worth €0.10 per gram. The minimum price of an alcohol product shall be calculated using the following formula: A x B = C
- A is the minimum price per gram of alcohol,
- B is the quantity in grams of alcohol contained in the alcohol product, and
- C is the minimum price of the alcohol product expressed in euro and cent.
So how are grams calculated?
The quantity in grams of alcohol contained in an alcohol product shall be calculated using the following formula:
Volume in millilitres x alcohol strength (vol) x .789 = MUP in Euro and cents
For a bottle of vodka, at 700ml and 37.5% volume, the calculation is as follows.
700ml x 0.375 x 0.789 = 207.11 grams.
At 10cent / gram, each bottle of vodka would be required by law to cost at least €20.71 under the new minimum pricing laws. For a litre bottle of vodka that would amount to €29.58.
A 300ml can of beer at 4.3% alcohol volume (4.3% is the typical strength of lager in Ireland)
300ml x 0.043 x 0.789 = 10.71 grams
At 10cent / gram, each can of beer would then be required to cost at least €1.07. For 24 cans its €25.68. Please note that for 500ml cans that that figure is much higher and higher still if the alcohol strength is higher.
700ml x 0.40 x 0.789 = 220 grams.
At 10cent / gram, each bottle of whiskey would then be required to cost at least €22.00.
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 17 - 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 15 – During a sports event, a person shall not advertise, or cause to be advertised, an alcohol product in or on a sports area. It shall be construed as prohibiting, during a sports event, a person in or on a sports area from wearing clothing containing the name, trademark or logo of any brand of alcohol product.
A person shall not advertise, or cause to be advertised, an alcohol product—at an event aimed particularly at children, or at an event in relation to which the majority of participants or competitors are children.
- Section 16 – It shall be an offence for a person to sponsor or cause the sponsorship of an event in relation to which the majority of participants or competitors are children, an event aimed particularly at children, or an event that involves driving or racing mechanically propelled vehicles.
Commencement Order to be signed by Minister for Health, following which there will be a 1 year transition period:
- Section 18 - 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.