Press Release

Minister Micheál Martin Launches National Alcohol Awareness campaign

“We Must Face Up To The Reality Of Our National Alcohol Problem.”

Launching a major national alcohol awareness campaign today (14 February, 2001), Mr Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children revealed that research to be published next week will show Ireland has moved to the top of the European league when it comes to young people drinking alcohol.

“The figures coming out next week are particularly startling when it comes to hard-drinking among young people. All round they are drinking more, being drunk more often and binge-drinking is a particular phenomena. The statistics are shocking. We must stop kidding ourselves and face up to the reality of our national alcohol problem,” he said.

Minister Martin stressed, however, that parents and others with the capacity to influence young people must look at their own drinking habits and how they impact upon the younger generations.

The Minister announced his personal opposition to de-regulation of off-licenses and pubs saying, “whatever about the commercial merits of de-regulation, the public health risks are intolerable. Research tells us one inescapable truth – when alcohol is less easy to get hold of, consumption and alcohol-related problems go down. If we make alcohol more easily available through deregulation, then underage drinking and the myriad of problems that come with underage drinking are going to escalate. We cannot kid ourselves that this won’t happen” he said.

Announcing new figures that show that, in the year 1999 alone, alcohol related problems cost the country £1.7 billion he went on,”this figure doesn’t come near the emotional price we’re paying, the human suffering and distress caused every day, in every town and townland in this country, is unimaginable. It covers the healthcare costs and the costs of road accidents, crime and absenteeism.”

Minister Martin launched the campaign at a special seminar held today in the Davenport Hotel, Dublin attended by over 100 stakeholders – health professionals, youth groups, teachers, parents, community groups, vintners and the Gardaí. He said that while the national campaign would raise awareness and debate about the issues, it is stakeholders working together at local level who could bring about, through positive actions, changes in behaviours towards alcohol.

The Alcohol Awareness Campaign will carry the slogan Less Is More – It’s your Choice. The Minister said that this reflects, not just the need to drink less alcohol but points towards healthy alternatives, lifestyles and activities.

“This is an essential element of the campaign. If you are asking people to change their lifestyles you must present them with something positive to fill the space,” he said.

These choices will be reflected on the special website www.coolchoices.ie. The site provides factual information on alcohol, myths about drinking, facts and tips for teenagers. There is a particular focus on binge drinking and its consequences for health, relationships, life options and opportunities. Nationwide activities and initiatives will be signposted on the site and there will be links to other websites.

Role models from the worlds of music, fashion, sport and TV and radio are providing messages that reinforce the positive choices they have made in their respective lives and careers. RTE and TV3 are also lending support to the campaign and the Minister would like to express his appreciation to them for their support.

The Alcohol Awareness campaign will run for three years.