The debate about minimum price for alcohol in Ireland might be dormant, but is far from its end. As soon as the government pushes it through people’s throat, it will bring reactions, and probably consequences. Before any debate, as per European laws, the government must prove that the move is a better option than merely increasing tax on alcohol. This alone, to me, is a hard sell.
It has been tried before. If we recall The Prohibition in the United States, a nationwide constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages? From 1920 to 1933, all it did was to boost organized crime, where a profitable, often violent, black market for alcohol flourished.
Keeping the proportion, it might be the same in Ireland, where high prices might well lure criminal elements into the market. There has been a rising trend in counterfeit alcohol in recent years, whereby law-breakers put cheaper drinks into branded bottles – even fine wines – or use potentially dangerous illegally produced beverage. It tends to rise!
It’s just not fair on the “non-problematic” drinkers to pay more for alcohol known to be cheap – and obviously poor in quality.
Irish taxes on alcohol are already among the highest in the world, which has been leading people into cross-border shopping and alcohol cruises to France. Even the government says the additional money will not be passed on to the Revenue, doesn’t make it right. Actually make it even worse, as it will simply hand big sellers of alcohol fatter margins – and probably push small merchants out of the market. It will not generate any funding for alcohol-related problems, as if they cared about it.
To tackle the problem, the government instead should come with something more noble, as educating people, offering quality help for those suffering from alcohol-related health problems. Those who campaign for minimum pricing don’t take addiction in consideration. I don’t think they even understand addiction. Addicts are capable of reducing children’s milk, or commit minor crimes, in order to top-up for booze.
The world is not perfect, we all know, but populist measures will bring no benefit in medium or long term, and the real problem will still be out there, calling for real actions.