Restrictions on price promotions of alcohol products have come into effect under new legislation.

The 'Sale and Supply of Alcohol Products Regulations' will prohibit loyalty card points from being awarded or used for the purchase of alcohol products.

They also ban the selling of an alcohol product at a reduced price for a limited period or because it is sold with another product or service.

Alcohol Action Ireland welcomed the legal commencement of Section 23 of the Public Health Alcohol Act.

"The operation of these regulations now ensures that people are not further incentivised, or rewarded, for using alcohol," said the group's head of communications Eunan McKinney.

"In practice, with so much alcohol now purchased in the retail landscape, these regulations will act as a small impediment to encouraging greater use and so contribute to reducing alcohol harm."

He added: "The introduction of these regulations is part of a process to de-normalise alcohol as an ordinary grocery product.

"Last November saw the legal commencement of separation of alcohol products in specified licensed premises."

Alcohol Action Ireland is calling for "the immediate implementation of minimum pricing of alcohol products, which has been interminably delayed by government inertia".

Commenting on the new regulations Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: "One of the primary objectives of our Public Health (Alcohol) Act is to delay the initiation of alcohol consumption by children and young people.

"A young person consuming the same volume of alcohol as an adult drinker is at risk of greater harm to his or her health with a particular risk to the developing adolescent brain.

"These regulations will ensure that price promotions which result in the sale of alcohol products at pocket money prices cannot continue.

"The coming into force of these regulations is further progress toward our objective of reducing harmful drinking and the health harms of alcohol consumption in our country."

Irish households spend more on alcohol than the EU average, according to Eurostat.

New figures released for the year 2019 show that just over 2% of total Irish household expenditure went on alcohol compared to the EU average of 1.6%.

The figure was highest in Latvia at 4.8% and lowest at just under 1% in Greece and Italy.

Tim Hayes of the European Commission said the figures for Ireland may increase for 2020 because of Covid-19 restrictions.