Fabian Demicoli

New report calls for ‘positive’ message on alcohol use


A
new report has called for a radical shake up in alcohol advertising to combat a
'rising' number of underage drinkers. The
report, questions the effectiveness of "focusing" on "negative"
messages in prevention programmes. It suggests a better approach is to
concentrate on "positive" messages such as emphasising that it can be
"cool and healthy" to be a non-alcohol drinker.

The
report, conducted by Alcohol-use Among Adolescents in Europe, contains the
findings of a survey of 70,000 teenagers aged 12 to 15. It found that it is
"quite common" for children in this age group to have consumed
alcohol although "clear differences" were found between member
states.

Some
60.4 per cent of those quizzed had consumed beer and wine  at least once in their lifetime and 34.2 had
consumed spirits. In the month before the survey was carried out, prevalence
rates were nearly half of this: 28.1 per cent and 13.5 per cent respectively.

The
highest 'lifetime' prevalence rates of alcohol use were among eastern European
countries, led by Estonia, with 85.7 per cent, followed by Hungary at 84.7 per
cent and the Czech Republic at 84.2 per cent. The lowest rates were in Iceland,
21.6 per cent, and Bosnia and Herzegovina at 30.9 per cent. The country of
residence is a factor in determining drinking behaviour, it said. "For
instance, in countries with a strict policy towards alcohol such as Nordic
countries, we found that the percentage of abstainers is higher compared with
other regions."

The
report says that consumption of alcohol among young people in Europe has risen
during the past few years. Several studies indicate that one quarter to one
third of all adolescents drink alcohol. Not only the number of young people
drinking alcohol is growing; problematic drinking, drunkenness and binge
drinking are issues of growing importance.

During
the three year project, a team of researchers studied the use of alcohol among
European adolescents and identified and analysed risk factors that influence
alcohol use in adolescents.

The
team compared risk factors with different possible effective strategies for the
prevention of alcohol abuse among adolescents that had been implemented in
different European countries.

They
analysed existing environmental strategies at different governance levels.

Addressing
a conference in Brussels to discuss the report, Hans Berten said it was
important to involve youngsters themselves in helping to combat alcohol abuse.
He said it is better to "allow students to take on an active role in
prevention instead of being passive recipients".

The
report goes on, "By focusing on positive messages instead of negative
ones, such as saying 'drinking can kill you', investments in prevention
programmes will have stronger and longer lasting effects."It also calls
for "accurate" information campaigns in order to dispel
"misconceptions" about alcohol and drugs

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