Stop underage drinking: Think before you drink
- Published: 2/10/2012 at 12:56 AM
- Online news:
Underage drinking is a growing concern in Thailand but it is not too late to do something about it. Teens who drink alcohol can easily get involved in a string of problems, from physical injuries to legal trouble. The Thai Foundation for Responsible Drinking (TFRD), an independent organisation promoting a more responsible drinking culture in Thailand, has recently launched the campaign “R U 20?” to combat underage drinking by creating anti-drinking awareness among adolescents.
Adolescents are more vulnerable to the danger of alcohol than adults. Alcohol can seriously damage and/or disrupt their brain development. The longer teenagers delay drinking alcohol, the more their brains have the chance to reach full potential and the higher the chance that they will grow into capable adults.
Presumably the most serious problem stemming from underage drinking is drunk driving among teenagers. More and more people under the age of 20 die every year from car crashes involving underage drinking. Because alcohol causes inefficient control of mind and body, driving under the influence of alcohol is extremely dangerous. Drunk driving not only causes death to the driver but also to other innocent people.
TFRD Managing Director Dr Olarn Chowiwattana said that the TFRD believes that giving people alcohol-related knowledge is more effective than prohibiting them from drinking. This belief is based on the fact that consumption of alcohol increases every year despite more and more campaigns trying to stop people drinking. Dr Olarn remarked that, in fact, such campaigns and restrictions imposed on alcohol advertisements adversely affected the nation’s drinking situation. This is because when alcohol producers spend less on advertising, they can sell their products cheaper, making it more affordable for people to buy alcohol.
The TFRD proposes a paradigm shift towards promoting responsible alcohol consumption. Instead of telling people not to drink alcohol, the foundation works at the community level, empowering them to battle alcohol consumption. The TFRD educates communities about the dangers of alcohol and motivates them to take part in projects aimed at encouraging responsible drinking and helping to discourage those in high-risk groups from drinking. Dr Olarn said the foundation was satisfied with the feedback it had received so far and deemed its cooperation with communities successful.
The foundation also works in cooperation with the alcoholic beverages industry, retailers, the government and NGOs to create a holistic approach to the problem of underage drinking under the R U 20? campaign. The objectives of the campaign are to raise awareness about the risks and dangers associated with underage drinking and to educate alcohol distributors and vendors about the importance of enforcing the legal drinking age in Thailand.
Adolescents can delay or avoid drinking alcohol by learning to say “NO” and staying away from places where alcohol beverages are served without parental supervision. They can talk to their friends, family members and teachers about experiences with alcohol and getting involved in constructive activities such as sports and clubs that interest them.
For parents, they can help their teens stay away from drinking by setting a good example and explaining to them why and how alcohol can hurt them in both the short and long term. Getting to know their friends is another way to protect adolescents because peer pressure is an important factor contributing to underage drinking. Parents can also share information and talk to other parents about what they are doing to keep their kids away from alcohol.