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Attitudes To Alcohol Must Change

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has called for a change in attitudes towards alcohol by both the public and the drinks industry, especially in the lead up to Christmas and New Year.

Speaking after the publication of statistics which show a slight drop in the number of people in Northern Ireland binge drinking since 2005, the minister said that the statistics also show that we still have a long way to go.

The minister said: "While I welcome the slight reduction in overall binge drinking levels, 81% of people who choose to drink are still exceeding the recommended daily limits. The cost of alcohol misuse to our society is very real. In just over 10 years, there has been a startling 86% increase in the numbers of people dying due to alcohol related harm.

"Now, more than ever, we should all be working together to really tackle this issue head on and I believe the drinks industry has a key role to play. Supermarkets in particular sell alcohol far too cheaply. I am extremely disappointed that despite having met with each of the major supermarkets, and received their personal assurances that they take this matter extremely seriously, those words have not as yet translated into meaningful action.

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"On the contrary, they are flooded with festive drinks promotions that will only encourage people to indulge further in binge drinking. This, in my view, is totally unacceptable.

"I will therefore be engaging with each of the supermarkets again in the New Year to explore what they will be doing to help address binge drinking. They have made a lot of helpful suggestions on what action can be taken, but much more is required. Action speaks louder than words. On this occasion, profit is being put before public health."

The minister continued: "The harsh reality is that although alcohol misuse is known to be damaging and harmful to health and well-being, many people in Northern Ireland still drink to excess. This must change, and in this respect we all have a collective responsibility in tackling this issue – individuals, society, government and the drinks industry alike."

The department is currently finalising an Action Plan to address Young People's Drinking. It has been developed in support of the New Strategic Direction for Drugs and Alcohol, which aims to reduce the level of alcohol and drug related harm in Northern Ireland.

The new Regional Agency for Public Health and Social Wellbeing will also work in partnership with local government and the community and voluntary sector to address public health challenges such as alcohol misuse.