‘Grooming’ next generation of drinkers

Sir, – Your article describing the reality of life for certain children in today’s Ireland (News Agenda, April 5th) makes for disturbing reading. The piece accompanied the recent announcement of the initiative of the Minister for Children to implement a project designed to bring greater transparency to the workings of childcare court proceedings. For any person concerned with the welfare of children in this country, this is a welcome development and the Minister and all concerned with the project should be lauded for their efforts in that regard.

That said, there is another category of Irish children for whom the Minister should display some urgent concern.

These are the many hundreds of thousands of children and young people who are exposed the most subtle and cynical grooming by the Irish drinks industry. The word “grooming” is an emotive one and I do not use the term lightly. Every right-thinking person will be appalled at the thought of any child being influenced for a particular purpose.

However, what has been long feared in relation to the promotion of alcohol in this country has been confirmed by research carried out in the UK: that the alcohol industry is actively grooming the next generation of drinkers.


As recently reported in the British Medical Journal , new analysis conducted by the Rand Corporation for the European Commission reveals that children in the UK are more exposed to alcohol promotion than adults; for example, that 10- to 15-year-olds see 10 per cent more alcohol advertising on TV than their parents do and that when it comes to the consumption of alcopops by children, they see 50 per cent more. The analysis noted also that alcohol marketers are exploiting the opportunities presented by social media, given that young people are the heaviest users of such media.

Furthermore, in recent weeks the UK’s first independent alcohol strategy concluded that alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol.

In effect, children and young people are being groomed in the interests of profit by extremely powerful commercial interests that employ the best creative minds in the advertising industry and expend vast resources to promote a drug that is addictive and widely available. That this type of commercial activity is harming Irish children is beyond dispute.

Any parent with a modicum of awareness will note the manner in which alcohol advertising on TV has a riveting effect on children. They know how children are familiar with alcohol brand names as a result of high-profile promotion of their products through sporting and other cultural events. They know how children are aware of the below-the-line promotion of alcohol such as in recent days when the visit of a well know film actor was not allowed to pass without the obligatory photograph in a pub. They are appalled and frightened by the peer pressure to which their children are subjected to use alcohol from an early age.

To date, the alcohol interests have convinced the Government that self-regulation of alcohol advertising and promotion is the best approach. But as we learned to our cost in this country, self-regulation amounts to no-regulation.

The Minister of State at the Department of Health is preparing to bring his Alcohol Action Plan to Cabinet. The Minister for Children, will study and debate that report. In relation to a very large and vulnerable section of our population, we can only hope that the Minister will be at her most vocal in asserting their rights to live lives without being brainwashed by a cynical drinks industry intent on maximising profits. – Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.