Skip to main content

Ireland's alcohol policy

Alcohol harm – why do we need an alcohol policy?

Ireland has a high rate of alcohol consumption, high rates of binge drinking and resulting high level of alcohol-related harm.

  • Ireland has high levels of alcohol consumption and approximately 75% of alcohol is consumed as part of a binge drinking session.1
  • An estimated 1.35 million adults in Ireland drink in a harmful manner.2
  • The financial cost of alcohol to the State was estimated at €2.35 billion in 2013.3
  • An estimated €1.5 billion was spent on alcohol-related hospital discharges in 2012 (€1 for every €10 spent on public health).4
  • Alcohol is responsible for 3 deaths per day in Ireland.5

Read more about Irish drinking patterns and alcohol-related harms.

To reduce the level of alcohol-related harm, means reducing consumption

What are the aims of the Government’s alcohol policy?

  • Promote low-risk consumption of alcohol among people who wish to drink
  • Reduce alcohol related illness, death and other problems


Developing a policy to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms

National Substance Misuse Steering Group

The National Substance Misuse Steering Group developed a comprehensive range of policy measures to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland to 9.1 litres per person per annum (the OECD average) by 2020, addressing the high level of alcohol consumption (currently 11.46 litres6) to protect and preserve public health. Read more

A comprehensive approach

Price, availability and marketing are key factors identified in the Report of the National Substance Misuse Steering Group to influence the supply of alcohol and, in turn, the volume and pattern of its consumption.

However, no single measure is sufficient to moderate alcohol consumption. An effective policy must include a range of measures to tackle both supply and demand:

  1. Restricting supply involves policies to reduce access to alcohol, control pricing and limit marketing promotion.
  2. On the demand side, policy must raise awareness and promote healthy choices.


Read more about evidence-based policy and what works to reduce alcohol related harms


Implementing the policy

A broad range of measures across many sectors will be needed to reduce alcohol consumption and the related harms. Some of the key drivers of this change are:

Government Public Health (Alcohol) Act

In response to the recommendations of the National Substance Misuse Steering Group the government published the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. the Bill was passed by both houses of the Oireachtas and signed into law in October 2018. The legislation regulates the supply of alcohol by controlling price, availability and marketing, cornerstones of reducing alcohol-related harm.

Read more about the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

The HSE National Alcohol Programme

The HSE National Alcohol Programme has responsibility for developing, planning and overseeing an Action Plan, in line with the Report of the Steering Group and to support implementation of the forthcoming legislation.

Read more about the work of the HSE National Alcohol Programme

Other strategies / plans supporting the National Alcohol Policy

Healthy Ireland

Healthy Ireland is the national framework for action to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in Ireland. One of its targets is to:
Reduce the amount of alcohol consumed by people over the age of 15 years to an annual per capita consumption of 9.2 litres of pure alcohol.

Connecting for Life

Connecting for Life is Ireland’s suicide prevention strategy. Objective 3.2 of Connecting for Life is to:

Support, in relation to suicide prevention, the Substance Misuse Strategy, to address the high rate of alcohol and drug misuse.

Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures

Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures is the national policy framework for children & young people.
Government commitments relating to alcohol in this framework include:
1.7 Address the high rate of premature and risky alcohol consumption …among young people through a combination of legislative, regulatory and policy mechanisms
5.1 Support youth organisations to provide ... quality-assured information and support responding to young people’s needs, both online and within the community, on issues of mental health, substance misuse, relationships, sexual health, education and employment.

Targets include:
To reduce the alcohol volume (cl 100%) consumed last drinking day among alcohol consumers aged 15-16
To reduce the rate of 15-year-olds who reported being drunk once in last 30 days

1 Mongan D and Long J (2016) Overview of alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harm and alcohol policy in Ireland. HRB Overview Series 10. Health Research Board
2 Long J and Mongan D (2013) Alcohol consumption in Ireland 2013: Analysis of a National Alcohol Diary Survey. Health Research Board, Dublin.
3 Dr Ann Hope (2014) Alcohol Literature Review.Department of Health, Dublin
4, 5 Mongan D and Long J (2016) Overview of alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harm and alcohol policy in Ireland. HRB Overview Series 10. Health Research Board

service finder

Where to get help

Find your nearest support group, by selecting your county below