Minister Lenihan Responds to MRBI Poll on Teenage Alcohol Abuse
Mr Brian Lenihan, T.D. Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Children, stated that “the MRBI Poll published today supports much of the research on young persons already published. For example, the results of the European Schools Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs 1999 (ESPAD) showed that by the time young persons reach the 15-16 age group, half of girls and two-thirds of boys are current drinkers, some of whom are consuming large quantities of alcohol.”
Minister of State Mr Brian Lenihan identified a large range of measures undertaken by the Government specifically aimed at addressing the problem of underage drinking. “We now have a Strategic Task Force on Alcohol to recommend specific, evidence based measures to Government to prevent and reduce alcohol related harm. Furthermore, Government approval has been granted for the drafting of legislation which will enable the Minister for Health and Children, Mr Micheál Martin T.D. to introduce regulations to control alcohol advertising, sponsorship and marketing practices / sales promotions. The primary aim of this legislation is to protect children and reduce the pressure on adolescents to drink”
The Minister of State also referred to the development of the national curriculum in health education (Social, Personal and Health Education – SPHE), the promotion of policies on alcohol and drugs, the greater involvement of parents and communities under the health promoting school concept, ensures a comprehensive and effective long-term approach in education. Training and resource development continue to be an integral part of policy. The Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science and the Regional Health Boards are key players in these initiatives. From September 2003, all schools must make provision for SPHE on the school curriculum.
The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 was also identified by Minister Brian Lenihan as having strong provisions to tackle the problems of under age drinking. The Act restricts the presence of persons under 18 in the bar of licensed premises and persons aged from 18 to 20 years old will be required to carry an age document in order to be in the bar of licensed premises. The Act also allows for increased penalties for serving alcohol to persons under 18, including the penalty of a closure order against a licensed premises found to be in breach of the new provisions.