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Harris criticises drinks industry role in educating schoolchildren about alcohol

New HSE resource aims to improve pupils’ knowledge about risks of alcohol and drugs

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD, gets a quick music lesson from students during the launch of ‘Know the Score’ – a new educational resource on drugs and alcohol for senior cycle students, at Rosary College, Crumlin. Photograph: Alan Betson

The involvement of the drinks industry in educating young people on the dangers of alcohol is “completely and utterly bizarre”, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

He was speaking at the launch of a new resource for teachers aimed at highlighting the risks associated with alcohol and drugs. It has been developed by public health and education professionals.

“It’s completely and utterly bizarre that you’d have a body funded by the drinks industry educating our kids about the dangers of alcohol… I means it’s ridiculous. I’ve never been a fan of self-regulation,” he said.

Latest figures show that while the total amount of alcohol consumed by young people has declined in the last 20 years, Ireland still has the third highest level of adolescent binge drinking in the world.

Mr Harris said “Know the Score” is the first national evidence-based resource on alcohol and drugs for senior cycle students and aims to give students the information to make informed decisions.

Alcohol branding

Among the topics addressed in the new resources include the impact of alcohol on the body and brain, the influences of alcohol branding and how to provide emergency care if someone who has been drinking or taking drugs.

Mr Harris said the new resources, along with new laws which prohibit the advertising of alcohol close to schools, will help ensure that there will be “no room for alcohol in Irish childhoods.”

“It is vital that students, teachers and parents get information and supports from trusted resources like the HSE, so that our young people are enabled to develop the important life-skills they need to make healthy choices,” he said.

“ It is not appropriate that schools use any materials or resources developed by organisations funded by the alcohol industry.”

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said the involvement of teachers in developing will is essential if we are to make a success of helping young people to become better informed of the risks associated with substance use.

“ I would encourage teachers to take up the offer of specialist training to support them in the delivery of what can be a complex topic area.”

He said the new material will be of particular use for teachers involved in delivering classes for transition year students.

The drinks industry has funded school alcohol awareness programmes, mainly through Drinkaware.ie

It has previously pointed out that this research has been developed by independent academics and says alcohol education programmes in schools have been shown to work well.

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