Experts slam firms for targeting students

Communication experts and youth affairs activists have called on executives of educational institutes nationwide not to allow alcohol companies to promote corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes among their students.

They said such CSR programmes only boost the brand image of the drinks companies rather than helping society.

Sirach Loysmut, a lecturer at Rangsit University's faculty of communication arts, claimed that about 260,000 young people take up drinking alcohol each year.

She said that CSR activities of the alcohol companies carried out at education institutes were partly to blame for the situation.

Executives of education institutes therefore should not permit alcohol companies to carry out CSR activities among students, Ms Sirach said.

"I think young people have a positive image of alcohol, largely thanks to these CSR campaigns," Ms Sirach told participants at a seminar entitled "CSR Activities of Alcohol Beverage Industry, Social Responsibility or Hidden Agenda".

The seminar was hosted by the Friends of Youth Development Foundation at the Office of Higher Education Commission.

Ms Sirach cited a study on the effects of CSR campaigns by alcohol firms on students.

According to the study, primary school pupils had positive thoughts about CSR campaigns run by alcohol companies, while secondary and high-school students believed such campaigns would help society.

She said the study found that university students thought the CSR campaigns would really help persuade people to do good deeds.

Ms Sirach said the CSR activities of the alcohol companies were not as good as students were led to believe because they only served to build a positive image of the company, enhance brand loyalty, find new customers and snatch away competitors' customers.

She said most alcohol companies have conducted CSR campaigns in the fields of charity, social work, the environment, empowerment, culture, social issues and education by providing scholarships, learning tools and courses.

Ms Sirach also agreed with a draft regulation that seeks to prohibit the sale of alcohol on pavements.

The Public Health Ministry will ask the cabinet on Monday to approve the regulation so that it will be enforced in time for New Year festivities.

She said it would be better if the ban on the sale of alcohol near education institutions was enforced seriously.

Nongnuch Jaichuen, a researcher at the Centre for Alcohol Studies, said that Section 32 of the Alcohol Control Act 2008 on alcohol advertisement must be revised.

"The law permits an alcohol firm to advertise its product. We want the law amended," Ms Nongnuch said.

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Writer: LAMPHAI INTATHEP