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State 'needs to be proactive' on teen drinking
Irish Examiner 14/11/2007

by Noel Baker

The Government needs to do more to tackle the issue of teenage drinking, with yesterday's Barnardo's poll showing that it is part of many young people's lives.

Barnardo's chief executive Fergus Finlay said some drinks which are aimed at young people should be banned. One section of the poll shows 18% of parents say they are aware their children are drinking alcohol, although the figure climbs to 34% for those with teenage children. The figures for drinking alcohol are ahead of those for smoking cigarettes and far ahead of other areas of concern such as cannabis use or sex.

The poll shows that the subject of alcohol consumption is the topic most discussed by young people with parents, at 80%. Second is smoking and the taking of other drugs, although having sex is discussed in 48% of cases. The poll also shows parents find it easier to discuss certain topics, such as sex, with girls.

This is so for every topic, and the poll also shows that parents are more likely to address issues such as drinking and sex when their children are in their later teens. Some of the opinions expressed in the poll seem contradictory. While 65% of parents have set rules on drinking alcohol and 64% of young people feel under-18s should not drink alcohol, 28% of parents think it is acceptable for young people to start drinking at 17 or younger.

More than two-thirds of parents believe alcohol advertising should be banned before 9pm, while 42% feel the drinks industry should pay for the cost of alcohol treatment.

Barnardo's director of advocacy, Norah Gibbons, said she backed the findings of the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol and its recommendations on lessening the impact of acohol on the lives of young people, but said the Government needed to be more proactive. "We do want them to recognise that it (alcohol) is not an ordinary commodity and that it is having ill effects in our communities," she said. Mr Finlay said: "It is an issue where Government needs to crack down in a variety of ways."

He referred to one drink known as a "rainbow", in which three shots of Aftershock are downed in one which is comparable to a triple gin.

"I can't think of a single good reason why Aftershock should be on the market. It's not a drink that's designed for adults, for moderate drinkers, it is designed for young girls."

The launch of the data yesterday coincided with a new initiative from the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference. At the launch of the conference's Lenten Pastoral letter, Alcohol: The Challenge of Moderation, Bishop Eamonn Walsh, vice-chairman of the Irish Bishop's Drug and Alcohol Initiative, said a DVD for schools has been developed, based on its theme and aimed at senior cycle secondary school pupils. It includes true-life stories and commentary from young people.