Government moves to slap health warnings on alcohol products and dramatically restrict drinks advertising in the Irish Republic have been blasted by the industry as unworkable and unnecessary.
The proposals, unveiled by prime minister Bertie Ahern on Monday, would ban booze ads on public transport, youth centres and at sporting events.
They would also prohibit TV and radio ads before 10pm and force all promotional material on alcohol to carry government health warnings.
Ahern is also pursuing a proposal through Brussels to place health warnings on alcohol products ­ a move described by one industry source as "absurd. What are they going to do? Put drinking kills' messages on every bottle?"
Speaking at the European Brewery Convention in Dublin, Ahern said the drinks industry should "face up to its responsibilities regarding the over use and abuse of alcohol." In the last decade, he added, "Ireland had the highest increase in alcohol consumption among EU countries".
Although the industry was undertaking valuable work to tackle underage drinking, it could do more, he insisted. "A much more effective demonstration of the industry's commitment to tackling alcohol-related harm would be to refuse to produce, import, distribute or sell shot-type drinks or sweet fruit alcoholic drinks which are clearly targeted at young people."
However, drinks industry bosses said self-regulation was preferable. Interbrew UK chief executive Stewart Gilliland told The Grocer: "Drinks companies should be given the freedom to market their products responsibly."
Industry-funded group Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society said a proof of age card would prove more effective than restrictive legislation. Chief executive Fionnuala Sheehan said the industry had only just set up an agency that vetted all ads before they went out to ensure advertisers took a responsible approach, while a lot of work had already been done to ensure drinks ads were not placed near schools.
Warning labels attached to products would be very difficult to phrase, she added. "Wines, for example, can offer health benefits. It would be far better to incorporate responsibility messages into promotional material, such as respect alcohol, respect yourself'."

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