A good day for public health

By June Shannon Policy News   |   11th Oct 2018

Irish Heart Foundation welcomes passage of Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

The Irish Heart Foundation has welcomed the final passage of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill through the Dail last night (Wednesday 10 October) – a process which has taken almost three years to complete.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which was initially introduced into the Oireachtas in December 2015, has passed all stages and will now be sent to the President for signature.

This is the first piece of legislation which addresses alcohol as a public health matter.

A total of 1,500 beds are occupied every night in the health service by patients with alcohol related problems.

The Bill provides for: minimum unit pricing; health labelling of alcohol products; the regulation of certain aspects of the advertising and marketing of alcohol; separation and reduced visibility of alcohol products in mixed trading outlets; and the regulation of the sale and supply of alcohol in certain circumstances.

The human face of alcohol related harm in cardiovascular disease is very real: it is the heart attack victim or the stroke patient.

The human face of alcohol related harm in cardiovascular disease is very real: it is the heart attack victim or the stroke patient

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Excessive alcohol consumption can badly affect heart health as it can increase the heart rate and blood pressure while its calorie content also contributes to weight gain.

Alcohol also increases the chance of developing cardiac arrhythmias (atrial fibrillation). This is in addition to all the other deleterious effects alcohol has on our health including an increased risk of cancer.

Nearly one million people in Ireland have high blood pressure, a major cause of heart attack or stroke, and last year almost 9,000 people died from cardiovascular disease in Ireland.

High blood pressure usually comes with an even bigger problem — a lack of symptoms. High blood pressure is one of the most common alcohol-related health problems, but many people don’t realise they have it.

Drinking too much alcohol over time raises blood pressure, which means the heart must work harder to pump blood around the body. High blood pressure can significantly increase the risk of stroke and heart disease; it can affect how quickly a heart beats (arrhythmias); and can even cause the heart muscles to weaken leading to a condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

“We cannot afford to take our eye off public health and the burden of non-communicable diseases and hope that this is another step in a long legislative and policy road to make the nation healthier,"

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , Irish Heart Foundation

Commenting Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager at the Irish Heart Foundation, said it was “a good day for public health” and following on from Ireland’s pioneering work in tobacco with the introduction of the smoking ban and now with alcohol “we should not be afraid to continue to pioneer precedent setting legislation.”

“We welcome that public health protections are being enshrined in law, no state should be afraid to protect its citizens from harms and we hope that political will will reflect that.”

However, Ms Reilly added that the nearly thee year long process involved in passing the Bill was a sign that public health advocates cannot be complacent in addressing vested industry interests.

“We cannot afford to take our eye off public health and the burden of non-communicable diseases and hope that this is another step in a long legislative and policy road to make the nation healthier,” she said.

Welcoming the passage of the Bill the Minister for Health Simon Harris said, “This legislation has been debated for over 1,000 days. It has been the subject of the most intense lobbying by the alcohol industry.

“But today it completes its passage through the Oireachtas and becomes the first time Ireland legislates for alcohol as it affects our health and it is right and proper that we do so.

“We know that we have a relationship with alcohol in this country that is not good, damages our health, harms our communities and harms many families.

“The measures in this Bill will make a real difference to changing the culture of drinking in Ireland over a period of time.”

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Related Topics

alcohol alcohol. heart. stroke Public Health Alcohol Bill

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