Ireland rates one of largest alcohol consumption declines in OECD report
drinkaware.ie’s responsible drinking campaigns came in for criticism yesterday when a leading consultant child & adolescent psychiatrist described them as being “cleverly worded in such as way as to ensure there was no change”.
21 November 2013
Speaking at a conference in Dublin hosted by Alcohol Action Ireland about the impact of alcohol on mental health, psychiatrist Dr Bobby Smyth said that campaigns such as drinkaware.ie and MEAS used “moral language and discourse around alcohol” which was “guaranteed” not to bring about a change in people’s drinking habits.
“It’s important to them to use moral language like ‘drink sensibly’ and ‘drink responsibly’ to ensure behaviour doesn’t change” he told the conference, “because of course the opposite would be drinking ‘irresponsibly’ or ‘stupidly’ and no one is going to view their drinking as stupid.
“Those messages make people who drink in a harmful manner regard their drinking as sensible enough and moderate enough and so feel better about their harmful drinking,” he said.
Such campaigns give the illusion that the drinks industry is interested in engaging with the public health issues, he claimed, “But all they are interested in is serving shareholders’ interests and being viewed by the public as benign”.
However in a statement put out today, the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland has stated that alcohol consumption in this country has declined by 20% since the peak of 2001. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Health at a Glance 2013 report published today noted this decline.
ABFI’s Director Kathryn D’Arcy stated, “Ireland has seen a consistent trend over the last 12 years of decline. Between 2007 and 2012, average per adult consumption declined by 12.1% and by 20% since 2001. This 20% decline in consumption of alcohol over the past 12 years in this country is one of the most severe declines of any of the countries surveyed in the OECD report. ABFI wants to change the culture of excessive alcohol consumption in this country and believes that the responsible consumption of our products is compatible with a healthy lifestyle.
“ABFI members have funded this single biggest initiative to change attitudes to alcohol misuse in this country – drinkaware.ie. This has seen over €20 million invested in communicating the dangers of binge-drinking and raising awareness about responsible consumption and Unit Measurement. Independent research shows that it’s working; numerous reports have found underage alcohol consumption levels are falling.
“In order to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse and to effect long-term cultural change, a collaborative approach is required. Shifting societal norms takes time – consider the success that Ireland has had making drink-driving socially unacceptable in this country. We want to realise a society where alcohol is enjoyed, not abused and getting drunk is not socially acceptable. Getting to that point requires real courage and a collaborative approach.
“Only by all sectors of society working together collaboratively can we confront the many causes and effects of alcohol misuse. It will take time, but we have already seen a 20% fall in alcohol consumption in the last 12 years. If we work together we can change the culture of excessive alcohol consumption in this country.”