Young people are drinking increasingly dangerous amounts of alcohol, junior health minister Kathleen Lynch warned yesterday as she called for a national conversation about excessive boozing.
She said young men were now dragging slabs of beer around estates in her constituency of Cork, while young women were also drinking more spirits.
Minimum pricing of alcohol could help control heaving boozing, she suggested, but changing attitudes towards drinking was the most difficult challenge.
Speaking at the MacGill summer school in Donegal, she said: “Where I live, people pass my house going to a housing estate and it used to be the case that I would see young men coming up that hill with six or eight cans in a plastic bag. I now see them coming up with slabs.”
Labour TD Ms Lynch pointed to comments by Orla Crosbie about increasing numbers of young women diagnosed with cirrhosis and damage to their livers because of excessive drinking.
She said more public discourse was needed about these concerns, especially with the parents of young drinkers.
“That is the market that you need to influence,” said Ms Lynch. “Women, parents, fathers, you’re talking about something that can detrimentally affect the health of their children.
“There are other things like [regulating] advertising, which happens in other countries, increasing the cost... because it’s not the six cans anymore, it’s the slab.
“I think it is a conversation that we need to start having on a regular basis, and most definitely start talking about it out loud.”
She added that, in a similar way to mental health, talking about issues could have a similar impact on excess drinking.
“But talking about it out loud and making it an issue which we have to address,” she said. “That type of concentrated effort actually does work.
“Changing attitudes is the big piece and changing attitudes is the most difficult.”
Psychology professor Ian Robertson, from Trinity College Dublin, also warned of the dangers of ‘pre-drinking’, or drinking before going out.
Earlier, Ms Lynch also criticised senior clinicians, in particular consultants, for not buying into reforms in the Vision for Change, proposed reforms for mental heath care.
“Who do they report to? What sanctions are there and how do we ensure that they do the job that they are paid very well to do?” she asked. “And constantly pointing out the problem is not a solution. I’ve had four years now of going into battle every year and looking for money for mental health and being successful at a time of huge recession.”
“Now we have to look at value for money. And people who don’t want to work there or who feel they are not answerable to anyone, really we have to challenge that.”
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