The official conference European Week Against Cancer said that the Irish are drinking 700 percent over recommended safe alcohol level to prevent cancer. Scholars at the conference have called for plain packaging for alcohol in the interest of public health.

Prof Peter Anderson of the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University in the UK said that the average Irish person who drinks is consuming 37 grams per day. The average drinker over the age of 15 consumes over 11 litres of pure alcohol every year. This amount is over 700 percent of the exposure level set by the European Food Safety Authority.

Anderson argued that in the interest of public health, the Irish government should ban all alcohol advertising and sponsorship, which the Irish government has recently done for tobacco. Irish Health reports he said, “Alcohol advertising helps foster more favorable drinking experiences and promotes social approval for consumption. It will not be possible for Irish society to develop a healthier relationship with alcohol if alcohol continues to be marketed in an aggressive fashion.”

The Cabinet is currently considering a proposal to ban sponsorship of sporting and cultural events. Health Minister James Reilly told an Oireachtas Committee last week that he was in support of the measure. Sports and Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar has announced that he is opposed to it. He argues that the lack of funding as a consequence of the ban could threaten sports at the grass root level.
reported that Kathleen O’Meara, ICS head of advocacy said, “From a public health perspective, this needs to be managed and controlled, and that marketing tool needs to be taken away from alcohol companies in a similar way that the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes has deprived tobacco companies of the ability to spread their message.”

Alcohol is a known carcinogen or cancer causing agent. Alcohol can increase the risk of several types of cancer including liver, breast, colon, and mouth cancer.

Irish Health quoted O'Meara, “We now know that one in 10 cancers in men and one in 33 in women are caused by drinking. When people smoke as well as drink, the two work in combination to substantially increase the risk of cancer. Alcohol and tobacco are estimated to account for three-quarters of oral cancer cases in Europe.”

The conference had some good news. Those who drink above the recommended level can reduce their risk of cancer. Research has shown that the risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, and oesophagus decreases over time when a person stops drinking.

European Week Against Cancer is a two day conference organized by the Irish Cancer Society and is held at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.