Ireland has been warned by 14 member states that its Public Health (Alcohol) Bill may be found in breach of EU law. Debated in the Dáil last month, the Bill proposes rules on advertising, labelling and minimum pricing, defined at 10 cents per gram of alcohol. As such, it will affect cheap beer, wine and spirits but not premium products.

Some EU countries argue that the introduction of new labelling rules would damage trade and discriminate against imported products, adding that the Bill was a disproportionate response to the issue of alcohol misuse. They expressed scepticism that it would achieve its aim of reducing alcohol consumption and questioned why less restrictive measures were rejected in favour of such ‘stringent’ proposals.

In all, 14 EU countries made submissions to the European Commission about the alcohol bill. They argue that minimum pricing may be in breach of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which states rules on the free movement of goods. A ban on alcohol advertising rules, including on the front and back cover of publications, could also be a breach of the TFEU, they argue.

According to France’s submission, “This constitutes an unprecedented initiative within the European Union and would result in the need to repackage products specifically for the Irish market”. Minimum pricing was also criticised by Austria, which said its experts were sceptical that it would solve alcohol-related problems.

Many countries questioned the logic of the bill, stating that alcohol could be safely consumed in moderate amounts, in contrast to tobacco products, which cause harm even in small amounts. “Alcohol consumption in itself does not automatically present a danger to moderate and responsible consumers; it is misuse or abuse that needs to be addressed but does not appear to be mentioned at this juncture,” Italy stated.

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, remained resolute saying that Ireland needed to show leadership with its alcohol legislation.

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