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Written Answers. - Alcohol Consumption.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 183. Mr. Gogarty Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  if his Department has carried out or intends to carry out a comparative study on the legal age for alcohol consumption in various EU States and other Western countries and the high incidence of alcohol-related attendances in emergency wards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26968/02]

 184. Mr. Gogarty Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  the plans which have been put in place to tackle the increasingly early ages at which children are consuming alcohol. [26969/02]

 185. Mr. Gogarty Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  if he will investigate the strong links between the promotion of alcohol on student campuses and the increasing consumption of alcohol by young people. [26970/02]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I propose to answer Questions Nos. 183, 184 and 185 together.

I have outlined my concerns on alcohol related problems and the measures being taken by my Department on a number of occasions. My Department is already involved in a wide range of partnerships with other Departments and bodies in an effort to tackle the issue of alcohol use by young people.

Education programmes have been developed so that young people may be more informed and better equipped to make informed decisions when faced with the issue of alcohol. Children are targeted through the substance misuse prevention programme called ‘Walk Tall'. Adolescents are targeted through the ‘On My Own Two Feet' programme which forms part of the social, personal and health education curriculum; the national youth health promotion programme with support from the health promotion unit, initiated a national project which provided opportunities for young people, 14-16 years to explore their relationship with alcohol. The health promotion unit of my Department is currently engaged in a three year alcohol awareness campaign entitled Less is More – It's your choice. Some phases of the campaign have focused on: those who buy or supply alcohol to those under age with a poster and radio messages with the theme of keeping children safe from drink; third level students in the restaurants of colleges with some facts on alcohol and a reminder that alcohol can affect one's finances, studies and health; youth leaders and health professionals in each of the health board areas to identify best practice initiatives within communities that promote awareness of alcohol to young people.

A national working group on alcohol consump[1566]tion in higher education was established by the heads of universities and third level institutions to formulate a response to a growing concern about alcohol promotion practices on campus, high risk drinking among students and its impact on student academic achievement and student attrition. A framework for the development of a college alcohol policy was developed by the national alcohol policy adviser who is a member of the working group and each third level institution can adopt the guidelines to reflect the needs and aspirations of its own campus environment.

My Department is represented on a number of alcohol-related European Union and World Health Organisation committees and contributes to a wide range of policy positions including that on the legal age to consume alcohol. International research has repeatedly highlighted the issue of alcohol related injuries. A pilot study carried out by Dr. John Sheehan, consultant in liaison psychiatry at the Mater Hospital showed that alcohol was a contributory factor for one in four patients attending the accident and emergency department. I recently announced funding to allow this study to be expanded. It will now be conducted in five major hospitals; the Mater Misericordiae, St. Vincent's University Hospital Dublin, Cork University Hospital, University College Hospital, Galway and Waterford Regional Hospital. It will be conducted on the basis of a WHO protocol in line with eight other countries.

In addition to measuring the proportion of alcohol related attendances in accident and emergency, the study will provide information on the patterns of alcohol related injuries and the context in which consumption had taken place. Materials will be developed and piloted to assist accident and emergency room staff in assessing and coding the degree of alcohol intoxication. It is expected that the study will take approximately one year to complete.

Question No. 186 answered with Question No. 171.


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