In order to tackle underage drinking, the Irish drinks industry, society and those closest to children have an important role to play. For example education, the provision of alternative facilities for young people and parental responsibility are crucial.
The drinks industry is already playing its part, through the Responsible Serving of Alcohol (RSA) programme which, among other goals, aims to prevent alcohol sales to those under 18. Almost 10,000 hotel, bar, nightclub and restaurant owners and staff have attended RSA training to date. The programme is delivered in the form of interactive workshops, using ‘real situations’ or case studies to help reinforce skills and encourage discussion among participants.
In tandem with efforts to reduce demand for alcohol from minors, the Government needs to enforce measures to prevent the sale of alcohol to those below the age of 18.
Other measures we recommend to tackle underage drinking include:
ABFI supports increased funding from the Government towards the development of more/better facilities to offer alternatives to underage drinking. These could include the development of alcohol free venues, entertainment facilities, national youth/health fitness programmes, all of which would help foster an alternative culture to youth drinking. According to the MEAS, the vast majority of 12-17 year olds would like to see more non-alcohol based activities and facilities introduced.
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.
Reduction of exposure of young people to advertising
ABFI is committed to the responsible marketing of alcoholic beverages and supports the appropriate placement of alcohol advertising to minimise its exposure to minors. ABFI is committed to the co-regulation of responsible marketing through the implementation of effective and comprehensive voluntary industry-wide codes. In Ireland, these codes cover advertising content and placement, with additional measures to pre-vet all alcohol advertising, as a control mechanism in the co-regulatory process. Read more about our commitment to responsible advertising and marketing here [LINK].
Confiscation of alcohol from minors and test purchasing
ABFI fully supports the powers granted to An Garda Siochana to confiscate any alcohol held by someone under the legal drinking age, and to allow for ‘test purchasing’ by minors in outlets suspected of flouting the law and providing alcohol to under age purchasers.