"A game changer in many respects. It has the same significance as the smoking ban, introduced in 2004, in the teeth of strong opposition from vested interests." That is how Fianna Fáil TD Sean Haughey described the Public Health Alcohol Bill this week.

He is among the TDs who believe the time has finally come for Ireland to confront its difficult relationship with alcohol.

The fact that the legislation has been crawling through the houses of the Oireachtas for three years has not gone unnoticed.

Mr Haughey remarked that it passed Second Stage in the Seanad in December 2015 so there has been "an extraordinary delay" in getting the debate under way in the Dáil.

He said: "This demonstrates the power of the drinks lobby in this country. There has been extensive lobbying on this bill."

As well as intense lobbying by the drinks industry, the Dublin Bay North TD has also been lobbied by health professionals.

Two statistics from those exchanges stand out.

Firstly, the cost to our economy of the alcohol problem is estimated to be €2.35 billion annually.

Secondly, three people die every day in Ireland as a result of alcohol.

The legislation will set a minimum unit price for alcohol and introduce restrictions on the display of alcoholic drinks in shops and the marketing of alcohol.

It also includes health warnings such as compulsory cancer warnings. This has become a sticking point.

A number of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs have taken issue with the proposal to include a mandatory warning that "alcohol can cause cancer" on alcohol products. 

One Government TD has even suggested it may be vulnerable to a challenge in the European courts.

Fianna Fáil TD John Brassil welcomed the bill and spoke of the need to introduce more controls on Ireland's problem with alcohol.

He also acknowledged that the drinks industry has "lobbied hard" for changes to this bill.

The Kerry TD added: "There is a proposal to state on the label that 'alcohol may cause cancer'. Alcohol may cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardio-vascular and all other sorts of health issues.

"I am wondering should we be looking at labelling that 'alcohol seriously damages your health' as opposed to specifying a disease such as cancer." 

His sentiments were echoed by party colleague Bobby Aylward, a cancer survivor, who claimed the cancer warnings are "a step too far".

The Kilkenny TD pointed out that "no other country in the world has mandatory cancer labelling. The word cancer is a very serious thing to put on a bottle".

"I think that to have cancer on something that is a luxury, that can be abused but it is not abused by 90% of people, I think it is very serious and we need to think long and hard before we put that on a bottle."

He pointed out that Irish distilleries are trying to sell whiskey worldwide against Scottish competitors so "this labelling is a step too far".

On the Government benches Fine Gael TD Pat Deering welcomed moves to reduce alcohol consumption.

But he added his voice to the chorus of concerns about the word "cancer" being used on labels as "cancer can be caused for lots of reasons". 

His party colleague Peter Burke asked if the cancer label proposal has been approved by Cabinet or if it was "a late add-on to the bill which I would be hugely concerned about". 

He said he would be interested to hear what the European Commission has to say about the proposal.

The Westmeath TD even predicted someone may take a case, if the labelling proposal is not scrutinised further. 

"We are hampering free trade by in effect putting that label on because we are standing out among other European countries," he said. 

But not all TDs are against it.

During the same debate, Independents4Change TD Tommy Broughan indicated that people expect to find nutritional and health information on the products they consume and alcohol should be no different.

Minister for Health Simon Harris used World Cancer Day last weekend to highlight the link between cancer and alcohol. He hopes the cancer labelling will help in the fight against the disease. 

As the new law continues its slow crawl through the Oireachtas, the lobbying from drinks industry as it fights against the cancer labelling will surely escalate.

With hostility to it evident, even on the Government benches, will the Oireachtas bow to that pressure?

Watch that space.