NCDA to Target Alcohol, Beady and Ecstasy Use


Executive Director of the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), Michael Tucker, has said that come next year, the council will be prioritizing programmes to target alcohol, beady and ecstasy use.
He was speaking at a recent public forum hosted by the NCDA at Eden Gardens. A 2006 National School Survey conducted by the agency has found that more than 70 per cent of young people aged 11 to 17 have used alcohol. Another one-third have tried tobacco, one-quarter have used ganja, and about three per cent have used crack/cocaine. According to the NCDA, recent studies have shown that 187,000 Jamaicans have a drug-related condition.
In the meantime, local media and communications expert, Arlene Amitirigdala, in her presentation at the forum, called on the authorities to carefully scrutinize and regulate advertising messages from companies seeking to promote alcohol consumption among the 18 to 24 age group.
This comes against the background of her survey, which found that university students generally lack knowledge of responsible drinking guidelines. “The local legislative authorities should carefully scrutinize use of advertising by alcohol companies to motivate alcohol consumption,” she said.
The study, which was conducted out on the University of the West Indies campus during the Smirnoff Ice university tour, examined the effect of the company’s ‘drink responsibly’ message on students aged 18-24, both in terms of increased knowledge and actual behaviour change in consumption levels.
While 74 per cent of the respondents recalled the slogan ‘drink responsibly’ appearing in the advertisements for the Smirnoff Ice tour, and 54 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the tour had increased their knowledge of responsible drinking guidelines, another 53 per cent stated that it made no difference at all to the amount of alcohol they consumed on a drinking occasion.
Discussing her findings, Mrs. Amitirigdala said that while the tour claimed to be educating students how to drink responsibly but in a fun way, “there was an abundance of promotional messages and stimuli to consume alcohol, in comparison to dissemination of specific information about responsible drinking.” Noting that companies are caught between meeting their bottom-line and being socially responsible, she opined that the injection of ‘drink responsibly” in promotional messages of alcohol companies “is a strategically ambiguous statement that solicits different interpretations amongst the same target audience.”
“Alcohol education should be the sole purview of not-for-profit organizations that are skilled and experienced in the planning and execution of behaviour change interventions,” she stated, while intimating that the responsible authorities need to monitor more aggressively, how alcohol advertising is done.
“The other recommendation is that the authorities must commence real alcohol education on university campuses, because knowledge, although not sufficient, is necessary to effect behaviour change, and the research has demonstrated that university students generally lack knowledge of responsible drinking guidelines,” she added.
Mrs. Amitirigdala also recommended that attempts be made to persuade the alcohol companies to fund their alcohol moderation messages without being mentioned in the advertisements or other promotional media.

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