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Dublin: 20 °C Wednesday 12 August, 2020

Impact of harmful drinking on Irish children 'a national scandal'

Today the Alcohol Forum launched Ireland’s first National Alcohol Awareness Week.

Image: Teenager holding can via Shutterstock

AS IRELAND’S FIRST National Alcohol Awareness Week launches today, the Alcohol Forum has warned that the country’s legacy of harmful drinking and its impact on Irish children is a “national scandal”.

Today the organisation said that society often blames teenagers and young adults for our alcohol-consumed culture when they are only “practicing what they learn from their parents”.

Speaking to today, Chairman Pat Harvey said he would like to see every teenager in Ireland being asked by their parents what they think of their drinking.

“A lot of them would be perfectly comfortable about the answers they’d get but some of them might be surprised,” he said. “We’re not at the top of the league of the heaviest drinkers because of a few people drinking heavily, we’re at the top because a lot of people take a lot of drink.”

Harvey said that the national strategy to education children and teens about the alcohol culture in schools is a model proven to work but said that now it was important to support it and resource it.

The alcohol industry should play a big part in resourcing it. There’s this message that they come out with, that individuals must take responsibility for their own drinking – I just don’t buy that. The industry is a goliath and we need to take them on. Instead of allowing them to sponsor sports events and things like that we should be imposing a levy and using it in a way that can undo the damage that’s been done.

Harvey said that perceptions that the campaign was aimed at completely discouraging people from drinking were wrong.

“People have this idea that we’re anti-pub and anti-drinking and we’re a million miles from that, we’re very comfortable with moderate drinking, it’s the times it reaches harmful levels that we’re worried about,” he said. “We’re looking to have a culture that nurtures this type of responsibility because it’s our cultures that cause us to be the way we are and the messages that the industry are getting out there are hugely impacting on our national identity.”

“In years to come, it’ll be a national scandal if we just sit back and watch while the damage is done to our younger generation,” he said.

National Alcohol Awareness Week

This week there will be a number of alcohol-themed events taking place including a flagship conference on Wednesday in the Convention Centre Dublin entitled ‘The Power of Local Community in Reducing Harmful Drinking’ hosted by Alcohol Forum which will focus on key strategies to reduce Ireland’s harmful drinking culture.

Other events taking place around the country include:

  • A Poster Exhibition by the Substance Abuse Service in St. Vincent’s Hospital Dublin.
  • Drug and Alcohol-Free Social Nights in Regional Cultural Centre Letterkenny organised by Letterkenny Community Development Project.
  • Alcohol Awareness Training in Mohill, Co. Leitrim organised by Mohill Action on Alcohol Harm.
  • Cork City Partnership Ltd will host ‘alcohol audits’ around Cork City asking ‘How Does Your Drinking Measure Up?’

Alcohol Forum will also launch a series of what they call “Toolkits” to help communities help themselves including:

  • Spirit of Sport – a guide for Coaches and Clubs on harmful drinking;
  • Festival Care Guide – a guide for festival organisers on how to curb harmful drinking at their events;
  • A Model Community – a community mobilisation toolkit for community groups to roll-out in their own areas.

A series of expert articles on alcohol misuse will be published every day on the Alcohol Forum website.

Related: Charity launches Ireland’s first Alcohol Awareness Week>
Read: Fast food and alcohol companies ‘using similar strategies to tobacco industry’>

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