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Ireland: Launch of Teenagers' Views on Solutions to Alcohol Misuse

15 April 2008. The Irish Minister for Children, Brendan Smith, launched a report on teen views regarding alcohol misuse gathered from consultations organised by the Office of the Minister for Children (OMC) in five locations around the country during October 2007.

Four dominant themes emerged from the consultations:

  • A reduction in the legal age for drinking alcohol to 16;
  • The provision of youth cafés and other alcohol-free facilities for teenagers;
  • Age-appropriate and improved education programmes;
  • An updated and effectively enforced ID system for young people.

Niamh Chapman (aged 17) said that the vast majority of consultation participants believed that young people should be allowed to drink limited quantities of lower alcohol drinks in pubs from the age of 16. ‘Preventing people under 18 from drinking alcohol creates a lot of the ‘buzz' around getting drunk,' Chapman said.

The teenagers proposed the following measures:

  • An ID card for 16-21 year-olds, with a permitted allowance of alcohol according to age;
  • 16-18 year olds to be permitted 2 drinks of beer or wine;
  • 18-21 year olds to be permitted 3 or 4 drinks, including spirits;
  • The ID card would be connected to a central computerised system that is linked to paying for drinks.

Thomas Collins (aged 16) spoke of the need for more youth cafés that are free, comfortable and attractive, with amenities such as: DVDs; internet access; karaoke; music events; games; counselling and other supports for teenagers. The need for other accessible and inexpensive activities as alternatives to drinking, such as discos, dancing, swimming, horse riding and rugby was also highlighted.

Orla Cosgrove (aged 15) said, “There was an overwhelming consensus that there is not enough education about alcohol. Participants want age-appropriate education programmes on alcohol, delivered by experts (e.g. counsellors, doctors, youth workers, former alcohol misusers) rather than teachers.”

They also want stricter enforcement of ID checks, stricter punishment for using fake ID and a serious effort to stop adults and older teenagers buying alcohol for teenagers.

Other issues of importance noted in the report were the role of parents, the role of the Gardaí, peer-mentoring programmes, the role of the media and advertising, and peer pressure in youth culture.

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