Alcohol Bill will negatively impact trade in the EU – European Commission

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Say goodbye to ‘Hello!’ - foreign magazines like Vogue, GQ, Grazia and Men’s Health may become illegal in Ireland under new alcohol laws

New labelling rules for drinks products set to impede exports

A number of measures in the controversial Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will negatively impact intra-EU trade and go beyond what is required to effectively tackle alcohol misuse, according to the European Commission, who has submitted comments to the Irish Government in relation to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), the representative body for drinks manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland said that the view of the European Commission highlights the urgent need for amendments to be made to this legislation.

The requirement for Irish-only labels, including a cancer warning label, to be included on all products sold in the Republic of Ireland, covering at least one-third of all printed materials has emerged as a hugely contentious aspect of the Alcohol Bill, as it is expected to create a trade barrier.

The European Commission heavily criticised the proposed requirement that at least one third of the printed material on drinks products will be given over to health warnings. It said that it ‘is very concerned about the impact that this requirement will have on the export of alcoholic beverages to Ireland’. It said that it considers the size of the warnings to be disproportionate and questioned whether the same objective – to tackle alcohol misuse - could be achieved if the health warning has a smaller, yet visible, size.

With regard to advertising, the European Commission said that the objective to reduce alcohol misuse could be achieved by less extensive prohibitions, having less effect on intra-EU trade. According to the Commission, the legislation means that at present a magazine distributed all over Europe that contains advertisements for alcoholic product would need to be reprinted before it was lawfully marketed in Ireland.

Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) said:

“The comments from the European Commission confirm the need for the Irish Government to make a number of reasonable amendments to the Alcohol Bill, as it states that the same overall objective of reducing alcohol misuse could be achieved through less trade restrictive measures.

“The drinks industry, like the European Commission, supports the overall objectives of the Alcohol Bill to tackle harmful and underage drinking in Ireland. However, its’s clear some of the advertising and labelling provisions are not proportionate and will represent a barrier to trade in the EU.

“We are calling on the Government to remove the requirement for cancer warnings on alcohol products, and a requirement that health warnings take up at least one-third of the label and other printed material.”

A number of member states have also stated that they are worried about this legislation, with Italy and Portugal expressing strong concerns about the prospect of cancer warnings being added on drink labels and seven other countries submitting comments on the new amendments. Outside of the EU, the government agency responsible for developing and recommending United States trade policy to the President of the United States has warned that proposed measures in the Alcohol Bill could impact the ability of U.S. companies to export to the European market.