Ireland blocks booze ads near schools, trains, buses, daycares, cinemas

Photo: william87 (iStock)

This Wednesday, Ireland will see sweeping alcohol advertisement restrictions take effect, the most comprehensive attempt to regulate the industry in Irish history. The new measures, introduced by Minister for Health Simon Harris, passed the Irish legislature last October.

The tighter restrictions are aimed at “changing the culture of drinking in Ireland.” According to a 2016 study from the World Health Organization, an estimated 39% of Irish people had binge-drank in the last 30 days, second only to Austria at 40.5%. (For context, the U.S. reported 26% of Americans had had an “episode of heavy drinking” in the past month.)

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So what, exactly, is being banned? Starting Wednesday, it will be illegal for alcohol advertisements to be within 200 meters (656 feet, for those who didn’t run track in high school) of schools, daycare centers, and public playgrounds. It’ll also ban alcohol advertisements on public transit and at transit stations, and at most movie theaters, and on children’s clothing. Indeed, it sounds like the objective of these bans is to hide the very existence of alcohol from anyone under 18.

Of course, the ban is not without its objectors. Drinks Ireland, a group that lobbies for the nation’s booze industry, says the Emerald Isle’s alcohol consumption is down 25% since 2005. They argue that the ban could cause jobs to be lost, and that no decrease in alcohol misuse is guaranteed by these measures.

But Minister Harris is unmoved. The nation’s relationship with alcohol, he says, “is not good, damages our health, harms our communities and harms many families.” That may very well be true. Though it might continue to be true once booze billboards are moved farther away from schools, too.

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