Ireland is making steps toward alcohol and cancer warnings

Ireland is asking the European Commission for regulatory approval to include health warnings on alcohol products, including "alcohol causes liver disease" and "alcohol causes fatal cancers".

By Lauri Beekmann,
Executive Director, NordAN
July 3, 2022

Eunan McKinney,
Head of Communications,
Alcohol Action Ireland

Photo by Anna Shvets

In 2018, Ireland enacted a comprehensive package of measures to tackle alcohol-related harm. The law included calorie information and health warnings on alcohol products. The act specifies that every alcohol product must be accompanied by a warning which informs the public of the dangers of alcohol when pregnant and of the link between alcohol and fatal cancers.

These warnings should ensure that no alcohol product can be sold without bearing a warning that informs the public that:

(i) “Drinking alcohol causes liver disease”
(ii) displays a health symbol intended to inform the public of the danger of alcohol consumption when pregnant, and
(iii) “There is a direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers”

The Public Health Alcohol Act was enacted more than 1300 days ago but the "key measure that would ensure citizens are informed of the inherent health risk from alcohol use, including the direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers, still lay dormant, awaiting a Commencement Order by the Minister for Health," states Alcohol Action Ireland.

On June 21 2022, the Irish Government made an application to the European Commission to enact these regulations that would put health warnings on all alcohol products. In compliance with EU legislation, the state must notify the European Commission of any draft technical regulation before it is implemented. Starting from the date of notification of the draft, a three-month standstill period (ending on September 22, 2022) – during which the notifying Member State cannot adopt the technical regulation in question – enables the Commission and the other Member States to examine the notified text and to respond appropriately. If they object, the adoption of these measures will be delayed. 

According to the submitted notification "in order to reduce the impacts on economic operators the requirement has a three year lead-in time. In addition, the lead-in time will not begin until the submitted regulations have been finalised and businesses have certainty about their obligations." 

We asked
Eunan McKinney of Alcohol Action Ireland about it. "Ireland´s notification to the EU now, provides our colleagues across Europe, and the wider global advocacy and stakeholder community, an opportunity to add their voice by way of submission to the necessity of having health warnings placed on products." 

Submissions can be made HERE