Along with Ireland’s economic recovery has come a worrying trend—the country saw an increase in the per capita consumption of alcohol last year, says Health Minister Leo Varadkar.
Provisional figures show that consumption per capita increased from 10.6 liters in 2013 to 11 liters in 2014, Yahoo! News reports.
Speaking in the Seanad on alcohol awareness last week, Varadkar said this was “probably related to the upturn in the economy."
“If so, it is a matter of real concern as it indicates that without policy change, as people have more money in their pockets, they are likely to drink more of it,” he said.
Varadkar said that Ireland has a “serious problem” when it comes to alcohol consumption and outlined the measures the government is taking to address the issue.
“We drink too much overall and binge drink a lot. In spite of what we might like to think, alcohol is not abused by a small minority of individuals – the majority of people who drink do so in a harmful way.
“Our alcohol consumption is in the top five among the EU’s 28 Member States. Although alcohol consumption per capita declined between 2007 and 2013, it remains high and the damaging dominance of a harmful drinking pattern remains very high by European standards and is a major public health concern.”
According to the Health Minister, WHO figures indicate that Ireland is second in Europe when it comes to binge drinking, with 39 percent of the population misusing alcohol this way at least once a month.
Varadkar said that studies had found that over half of adult drinkers in Ireland are classified as “harmful drinkers.”
He went on to outline the measures contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, published earlier this year.
The draft law includes restrictions on low prices and the advertisement of alcohol, the legal regulation of sports sponsorship, and the introduction of warning labels and calorie details on drinks.
The new legislation will also include provisions for minimum unit pricing, making it illegal to sell or advertise alcohol at a price below the limit.
The minister said his department is considering proposals on what the appropriate minimum unit pricing will be.
“Ultimately, the price needs to be set at a level that will reduce the burden of harm from alcohol use or it will be ineffective, but not so high that it increases the cost of a pint in the pub or a glass of wine in a pizzeria,” he said.