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'Maybe we should slosh our way through the forty days before Easter too'

It should go without saying that it is a very, very bad idea to knock back twelve drinks in a row, writes Eunan McKinney.

CHRISTMAS IS A lovely time of the year. We catch up with family and friends. For many the pub is the perfect setting – it’s convivial, warm, friendly and welcoming.

And that’s all lovely, until a marauding troupe of messers, bedecked in luminous Christmas jumpers, and wielding bunches of mistletoe, settle into your space, disrupting your company and likely spoiling what was shaping up to be a pleasant evening.

12 Pubs of Christmas

Over the last decade or so, we have created the now annual ‘tradition’ of the 12 Pubs of Christmas.

You have to hand it to those marketing heads who yet again have demonstrated their abundant creative guile by bringing us all yet another, much-needed, treasure of Christmas.

Perhaps we should explore a full calendar of excessiveness. Why not reinstate the ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ for any seasonal opportunity, or let’s push the boat out and slosh our way through the forty days and nights before Easter too.

All joking aside, there are many reasons not to encourage a marketing trick like the 12 Pubs of Christmas, none more so than our health.

A very, very bad idea

It should go without saying that it is a very, very bad idea to knock back twelve drinks in a row, worse still the accompanying free shots, that now seem to be common to these pre-prepared commercial tour packages.

At a time when every bar stool expert seems to possess his own theories, it might be a relief to press our collective sore heads against the cold steel of proven facts: this level of alcohol will damage your health. It will seriously impair your judgement and jeopardise your wellbeing. Engaging in this kind of behaviour regularly will likely shorten your future Christmases.

Not surprisingly, many pubs in Dublin city, mindful of their duty not to serve those who have drank too much, have now moved to exclude such disruptive groups of seasonal revellers. More tellingly, they understand that the presence of such groups is both unpleasant, and unwanted by their customers who simply want to enjoy the glow of the seasonal atmosphere with convivial company.

Needless to say, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with visiting twelve great pubs, were it with the Iberian discipline of tapas and caña. It’s the likely twelve plus drinks at full tilt that is the issue.

Ireland’s problem with binge drinking

Recent CSO data, echoing EU, OECD and WHO reports, demonstrates the rising scale of Ireland’s problem with binge drinking. One in three drinkers, and 26% of 18 to 24-year-olds, are weekly binge drinkers – the highest rate in Europe and more than double the EU average.

Given that we now know that those who drink more than three drinks per day increase their risk of liver cancer, and that alcohol is responsible for seven types of cancer, when are we going to get a grip?

As Dr Ronan Glynn of the HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme recently said, “Many people are not even aware they’re drinking harmfully” before outlining six alcohol-related health risks everyone in their twenties should know:

  • Alcohol is a carcinogen, just like tobacco and asbestos.
  • What you drink now can impact your risk of cancer in the longer term.
  • Alcohol can damage, shrink or kill brain cells.
  • Drinking can reduce your fertility.
  • Alcohol can cause depression or make it worse.
  • Drinking can stop you absorbing nutrients from your food.

Is all that drink, in those festive Christmas jumpers, really that much ‘craic’? I don’t think so.

Surely we can all enjoy the fun and the mistletoe without obliterating our memories.

Eunan McKinney is Head of Communications and Advocacy at Alcohol Action Ireland.

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