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‘Voluntary’ alcohol code not worth a tap

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 14:00

Centra case just another example of voluntary code failing young people


The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) has expressed grave concerns about the extent to which the voluntary code on responsible retailing of alcohol can protect young people in light of the Centra ‘drinks offer’.


“NYCI is not surprised by the offer made by Centra for those collecting their Children’s Allowance - we are only surprised by the reaction,” said James Doorley, Assistant Director at NYCI.


“This offer shouldn’t take anyone by surprise: every day retail outlets throughout Ireland are marketing cheap drink in an inappropriate and irresponsible manner, which is increasing alcohol consumption by young people,” continued Mr Doorley.


“Having campaigned and conducted extensive research* on this issue for a number of years, NYCI is particularly concerned about the marketing and sale of cheap alcohol to young people under 18 and this incident does at least present us with an opportunity to re-examine how alcohol is marketed and sold in Ireland.


“Mixed trading premises such as supermarkets and convenience stores are marketing cut price alcohol which is increasing alcohol consumption by young people. It increases the age at which they start to drink, and the volume and frequency at which young people drink. At present many outlets are displaying and marketing alcohol in an irresponsible manner.”


Voluntary code weak
Although there is a “voluntary” code developed by the retailers in 2009, it is weak, full of loopholes, carries no sanction and has not been signed up to by all retailers.

  • It allows for exemptions and interpretation by stores themselves
  • There is no sanction, even when signed-up retailers breach the code
  • As it is voluntary, not all retailers have signed up

The National Substance Misuse Steering Group (of which NYCI was a member) has called for a move away from this voluntary model, and the NYCI welcomed the recent statement by the Minister for Justice Shatter that he plans to move away from the voluntary code approach and introduce statutory codes which would allow for fines and/or the removal of a licence from offenders.

“Alcohol is not an ordinary commodity, however too many retailers are treating it as such and are trading in an irresponsible manner. Until we move away from retailer designed weak codes of practice with no sanction to statutory codes which can penalize retailers and which can ultimately strip them of a licence then traders will continue to put increasing sales and profits ahead of all other concerns,” concluded Mr Doorley.



Press contact: Daniel Meister, Communications Officer, NYCI Tel: 01-425 5955/ 087 781 4903/ 087 672 6619


National Youth Council of Ireland

The National Youth Council of Ireland is a membership-led umbrella organisation that represents and supports the interests voluntary youth organisations and uses its collective experience to act on issues that impact on young people.

*NYCI Report: Get 'em Young: Mapping young people’s exposure to alcohol marketing in Ireland available here: