Representatives of the brewing industry declared to be willing to establish such a Forum during the seminar „Civic Education – Alcohol and Society”, which was organised by the Union of the Brewing Industry Employers in Poland and the The Brewers of Europe on 28-th November. The topic of the Seminar attracted experts from various fields, but focused on working out real and effective ways to prevent adverse effects of irresponsible alcohol consumption, as well as the role which can be played in these activities by all organisations, which want to participate in shaping the culture of responsible alcohol consumption
The brewing industry raises the necessity to create a wide social forum, which would become a real forum for discussion, opinion exchange and working out of real solutions to problems linked to irresponsible alcohol consumption. Such a forum should be opened for all institutions, organisations or environments, which want to participate in finding solutions to this problem – such a public administration, non-governmental organisations, think tanks or scientific centres.
Great examples of such bodies were presented on Monday by among others the CEO of The Brewers of Europe, Pierre-Olivier Bergeron as well as representatives of Spanish and Portuguese brewers’ organisations, where such ways of wide cooperation between producers, public administration, non-governmental organisations and the scientific world have been working well for many years. Portugal is a great example, where the local Beer Producers’ Organisation is one of the co-authors of the National Plan of Counterfighting Alcohol-related Problems, which is a forum working not only in the field of advertisement’s self-regulation, elimination of driving after drinking or protection of minors, but also creates patterns of responsible consumption. Participants of the Plan are also public administration and regional governments, especially services established for alcohol prevention, civic organisations, as well as hospitals, medical establishments dealing with assistance to persons with an alcohol problem. The Portuguese National Plan works also in frames of the European Health and Alcohol Forum.
Jacobo Olalla Marañon, the General Manager of the Cerveceros de España in turn presented during the Polish seminar a model of action called „National Agreement Against Consumption of Minors” – a forum created by the local Ministry of Health, Cerveceros de España as well as 50 other organisations such as groups of parents, producers of other alcohol beverages and publishing houses, involved in educational, preventive and self-regulating activities, as well as in gathering knowledge and experience. Participants of the Agreement underline that such preventive and educational actions give better results than bans and restrictions not endorsed by educational elements.
The seminar „Civic Education – Alcohol and Society” was meant to be the first attempts to bring together communities, which should be involved in this field. In the seminar, apart from representatives of brewing organisations from various countries participated also representatives of organisations from wine industry and vodka producers, representatives of Police, the Ministry of Interior, PARPA, specialists in marketing, advertisement and social research, as well as scientists and experts dealing with medical and social and psychological aspects of alcohol in the society. Besides, in the seminar participated also representatives of communes active in this year’s action of the Union of the Brewing Industry Employers – Polish Breweries, Police and the Ministry of Justice entitled „Appearances can be deceptive – ID is not”.
The most frequent argument of discussion during the seminar was the question of whether to „forbid or educate”, which was raised by the discussion’s participants.
James Bartlett from a British think tank Demos presented research, which shows that family relations, interest shown by parents, care and openness to discussion with children constitute a fundamental factor deciding about the children’s attitude towards alcohol in the future. „We carry out studies on a selected group of children, whom we accompany with our studies from their birth until their adult age, thanks to which we can follow changes in their attitudes. Our studies show unambiguously that the way in which parents talk with their children – not only about alcohol, how much time, commitment and care is dedicated to children decides about whether and when a young person will reach out for alcohol, but also how he/she will use it – responsibly or in a risky way.” – said Bartlett.
The educational element in family, a personal example coming from parents, but also an open discussion on alcohol were also noticed by dr. Dominika Maison. „Norms of reacting to alcohol in families are different and as studies, which I conducted show that in homes where strong bans are in place, teenagers demonstrate a greater eagerness to overcome limits of alcohol consumption while partying. Children, who have tried alcohol for the first time in front of their parents usually drink in a less risky manner. In such a situation the child should be informed about potential consequences of drinking. However, the moment when a teenager comes back home drunk is not the right one to talk about it. Another problem is the social acceptance for alcohol purchasing among minors. Often not only the shop assistant doesn’t see any evil in selling alcohol to minors, but also witnesses of such situations, persons standing in the queue do not react to attempts of purchasing alcohol by persons not in the position to do so. Young persons themselves do not feel that purchasing alcohol they are doing something wrong indeed.”
A psychologist, professor Jerzy Mellibruda, underlined that restrictions and education must go together and should not be treated as a mutually excluding alternative. „Forbide or educate – this is not a real dilema. Various activities are needed, both education and bans. Nobody doubts about the fact that a ban on selling alcohol to minors should be maintained. Of course, the key role in shaping attitudes of young people vis-à-vis alcohol is played by education. Adults should build solid and close relations with children and have a constructive impact on them, however the relations should change together with the child’s evolution. This is one of the biggest challenges, but at the same time we can notice evolution in the ways children are brought up in Poland. Parenthood is ever more often treated as a set of competences and this is a very good approach.”
Jan Wróbel, the director of the non public high school „Bednarska” underlined that as an educator he appreciates the role of the „social agreement” constituting in creating an unambiguous principle „zero alcohol at school”. „One should think in a realistic way – young people’s habits are born because … young people have their habits. The adult world doesn’t have much to say in that respect. We know that young people strive for tasting also things which are forbiddden, that they notice the fact that alcohol also plays a „social” role. It doesn’t mean however that it should be accepted everywhere and at all times. We have to build a certain paradigm of conduct. In our school the „rules of the game” have been established together, but they are tough: they concern school activities, but also trips, bals etc. etc. The school is a place where we have a certain role to play, we don’t act in a completely natural way. On alcohol there is a rule, which says that the weak ones should be protected. Forbiding our students to drink alcohol (and also our teachers!) we protect those, for whom alcohol could be harmful or even dangerous. By the way practice has shown that most often the „alcohol boobs” concern rather milksops than „professionals”. Of course we don’t insist on that being a universal way of conduct and we don’t insist that there is no one at the school who thinks such an attitude is exaggerated – but I am convinced that out students, who in the future will be themselves educators, scouts’ supervisors, parents, will reach out for our experience in working with young people. In case of alcohol we usually deal with a series of monologues from educators or parents instead of a discussion. Speaking to a teenager about alcohol doesn’t mean a discussion. It is difficult to fight someone’s lifestyle if you are yourself out of a certain group of people. The emphasis should be put on education – this emphasis doesn’t however diminish the role of bans.” More materials, presentations, photos and audiovisual clips are available on facebook and on the fanpage of the Seminar Edukacja Obywatelska – Alkohol a Społeczeństwo. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Edukacja-Obywatelska-Alkohol-a-Spo%C5%82ecze%C5%84stwo/191703594245004
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