Evidence shows that the principle influencers on youth drinking are parents and peers. In this regard, education has a critical role to play in educating adolescents, parents and The absence of education measures that could positively impact on a cultural acceptance of alcohol misuse from this Bill is a glaring omission.
there is the lack of a demonstrable positive relationship between advertising, sponsorship and aggregate consumption of alcoholic beverages. The research and findings of the various studies are contradictory and therefore inconclusive. Other factors – especially parental and peer influences – appear to be more powerful in terms of having an influence on drinking, in particular among underage drinkers.
ABFI supports the development of targeted interventions for specific/high-risk sections of the population. These would include:
- school-based programmes: for example, drama-based discussions etc
- hospitals: alcohol-related attendance at A&E – brief interventions by medical staff
- public order offenders: brief interventions by the Gardaí
- GP programmes: training for GPs on how to talk to their patients about alcohol
- GAA/FAI/IRFU/other sporting organisations: mentoring programme – appointing regional sports role models to build discussions around alcohol misuse and underage alcohol abstinence.
Ultimately, responsibility for alcohol consumption lies with the individual and in the case of children, with the parents or guardian. Alcohol abuse by minors has greater potential for negative health effects, because of their early stage in physiological and emotional development. Research suggests that early heavy alcohol use by minors has increased negative and potentially long-term effects on certain brain regions and the skeletal system.
This further enforces the point that high risk categories, including young people, require particular attention. Information and education can play an important role in providing skills for responsible decision making in relation to drinking. Mass media and information campaigns – while not a solution in themselves – can play an important part in raising awareness on certain issues.
Education programmes for young people should be integrated into broader community programmes that include information and awareness programmes for adults of all ages. They should be implemented in conjunction with other initiatives that can help to support a culture in which high risk drinking is not acceptable (for example, responsible server training, campaigns to support anti-drink-drive measures, better enforcement of laws prohibiting sales to underage drinkers or intoxicated persons).
Parents play an important role in shaping their children’s drinking behaviour by:
- setting a good example with regard to the level and pattern of alcohol that should be consumed
- providing information on alcohol and its effects
- setting rules about alcohol consumption, and strictly ensuring they are respected.
Research findings from a MEAS survey indicated that the majority (80%) of those 16 and 17 year olds who will drink alcohol feel that they have some degree of parental sanction.
When combined with the parallel finding of widespread parental ambiguity in relation to rule setting, it would appear that controlled domestic experimentation may be preferable for many parents.
As highlighted, it is not an uncommon practice for parents to introduce children to alcohol in a safe and moderate way. ABFI, therefore, believes that parents should be provided with education material on how and what to communicate to their children, depending on age and gender.