17 August 2005

Seven-year-olds hooked on drink

A fantastic headline from Monday's Metro, if somewhat of a bare-faced lie. Firstly the article implies there are huge swathes of the under-eight population attending AA meetings, when it in fact turns out that an Edinburgh hospital reported a single incident of a seven-year-old that had been persuaded to drink by older children. Even for this one, admittedly concerning, case, it hardly follows from a visit to hospital that the child is "hooked on drink" as the Metro so graphically puts it. I realise newspapers need gripping stories, but it belittles real issues when the truth is stretched so far as to be trivial.

The Times has a rather less hysterical article on 7-year-olds treated for alcohol intoxication, although even here I take issue with some of the implications. The article states that a "quarter of school-age children admitted drinking alcohol every week". Now, as a child from I young age I drank alcohol; given to me by my parents. What terrible parents they must have been? Well, no, I had watered down wine with my meals and the occasional beer as I got older. See, the social issue is that when you make things taboo you positively encourage rebellious teenagers to indulge in such behaviour. The much beloved continental attitude to drink is to do with a culture where drink is not a taboo, but is integral to wider social patterns. This means that what we need is more personal responsibility from parents; they need to act as positive role models with regard to drink. The government cannot and never will be able to legislate culture.

Lastly, I'd like to see these advertisments for drink aimed at seven-year-olds and the proof for how going on at young children about drink and drugs has made a blind bit of difference to the rates of consumption of either. The light at the end of the tunnel of the 'teach them when they're younger' education programs is that there is only so young a child can be, before the whole idea has to be given up as nonsense.


idlejimbo said...

Cigarettes. The facts are substantial, and I remember a varied plenty of videos showing dolls full of black tar, old gits wheezing, etc, years before I was allowed to buy smokes or even exposed peers smoking (i.e. in the bars, pubs and clubs). When I went to visit my grandfather in hospital, I remember with sharp detail the man in the bed next to him. He rolled his torso over in his bed and begged me not to smoke when I grew up because it would cost me my legs, as it had him.
What nobody ever dared explain was why smoking was popular amongst young people. I don't believe that it's all about being cool and doing what 'everyone else' is doing. It's because it tastes nice and is relaxing. Smoking is not needed, and there are other ways to relax and indulge yourself. Why not peddle these instead of defaulting to using fright tactics on youngsters? Once someone starts smoking, they're unlikely to respond to videos, etc that don't empathise with a person's quiet motivation to smoke.
Rather tangential, sorry. I'm actually a bit tipsy - oh the irony!

cuthhyra said...

Irony is always welcome here!

I think you are right about the relaxing aspect of smoking, otherwise why would smokers feel like a ciggarette when they are stressed. I'm not so sure about the taste in all cases (can't say I like the taste!), I know an ex-smoker who said he never really liked the taste, it was more a habit that kept him calm as you said. It is obviously addictive, but so is caffeine, the issue only comes up because the state has taken on the role of guardian of the nations health. Bubblewrap anyone?

At the end of it all it is still about personal responsibility, either of parents for their children or individual responsibility. All the state has done is prove that it is not ignorance that causes people to drink, smoke, take drugs or do anything else considered reckless by our self-appointed nannys. Ultimately when 'society' (i.e. the state) takes on collective responsibility it eschews all individual responsibility.

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