Irish Cancer Society urges government not to cave to drinks industry over labelling

Charlie Flynn

Reporter:

Charlie Flynn

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The Irish Cancer Society has called on Minister Simon Harris not to give in to the alcohol industry’s vested interests following reports that the Government may drop provisions in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill that raise awareness of the link between alcohol and fatal cancers.

Head of Services & Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, Donal Buggy said: “The Minister must re-affirm his, and his Department’s, commitment to ensuring that the undeniable link between alcohol and fatal cancers will be included on alcohol labelling as part of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill."

"It is deeply disappointing to read of Government sources flying kites about the potential dropping of this provision which strengthens the legislation, is clear, and is evidently workable.”

“Unless the link between alcohol and fatal cancers is included in primary legislation, the Government may struggle to produce meaningful regulations for health labelling. Anything less can only be viewed as the Government caving to industry interests,” they added.

“Opposition will not stop at cancer warnings and Government will continue to face obstruction from industry on any informative health labelling to the point where we may end up with futile “alcohol may harm your health”-style messaging.”

“Labels providing information to the public about the link between alcohol and fatal cancers help to make sure that people are aware of certain risks associated with consumption, and can make informed decisions on that basis.  Consumers need factual, scientific information to help them make a choice about their health and any roll-back on cancer warnings will undermine the labelling section of the Bill entirely.”

The Society says that cancer labelling will help establish a social understanding that alcohol is a dangerous commodity, which is currently far from being realised. Only 1 in 4 women are aware of the increased risk of breast cancer from heavy drinking, while only 4 in 10 people are aware of the link with bowel cancer.

Mr. Buggy added: “The alcohol industry has already extracted concessions on the size of health labelling.  The Government must now demonstrate its commitment to the public health interest by supporting cancer warnings, which had cross-Party support in the Seanad and in the Dáil at Committee stage.  It can’t take the easy way out by now blaming a process of scrutiny by the European Commission that’s already underway.”

The European Commission did not issue a negative opinion on the cancer labelling provision when notified, and as such, the Society says there is no block to the measure being enacted.