Binging on alcohol task force
Brian Lenihan is awaiting another report from another task force on alcohol abuse, four years after a splendidly produced report was published by another task force. This was called ‘Strategic Task Force on Alcohol, Second Report'. There were 37 members of that task force. Everyone who was anyone in the alcohol business or anti-alcohol business was on it: Gardaí, public servants, representatives of the drinks industry, young people, psychiatrists, representatives of the sports council.
They laboured mightily and came up with lots of recommendations. They were against binge drinking, in favour of more moderate alcohol consumption, protecting children from alcohol, against alcohol-related harm.
Alcohol is no ordinary commodity and its harmful properties result in a wide range of problems'. They were all in favour of a holistic approach. They were in favour of regulating the availability of alcohol; controlling the promotion of alcohol, more education and information. Effective treatment centres, very much against drink driving.
This led them to favour raising alcohol taxes and regulating the physical availability of alcohol (minimum age, limiting number of outlets and time of sales), stop the promotion by drink companies of sporting events and competitions.
In the four years since the publication of the report, the number of alcohol outlets has vastly increased – off-licenses, supermarkets and garages. There has been no significant increase in taxes or excise duties on alcohol. Sports events and competitions are still sponsored by drinks companies. The treatment centres are as they were. The only significant change has been the introduction of random breath testing and, boy, what an effort that required.
The new task force will be or should be a carbon copy of the report of four years ago. And the likelihood is that the recommendations of the new task force will meet the same fate.