Child drinking under fire

The National Drug Council is
launching a public education campaign to highlight school students’ consumption
of alcohol.

Studies done by the council show
that 44 per cent of students who admitted drinking alcohol said they had had
their first drink between the ages of six and 11.

“The survey… revealed that more
children were using alcohol and doing so at far too young an age,” said Joan
West-Dacres, the executive director of the National Drug Council.

During April, which is designated
as Alcohol Awareness Month, the council is conducting a public education
campaign to call attention to the consequences of drinking and will be running
ads in Hollywood Theatres and on local radio stations.

The announcements contain messages
for young people, advising them of the dangers of alcohol and from giving in to
peer pressure to drink.

“Real friends like you for who you
are so you don’t need to drink to fit in,” is one of the messages carried in
the public service announcements.

The Cayman Islands Student Drug Use
Survey, a study which has been conducted in schools since 1998 of seventh through
12th graders, suggests that if parents want to keep alcohol away from 11 to
16-year-old students, the best place to start is at home.

The latest study, done in 2006,
showed that one-third of middle school students get their alcohol from their
own parents, from friends, or buy it themselves.

“We have many fine young people,
but when we see statistics showing: out of 2,500 students between the ages of
11 and 16, more than 1,000 admitted to drinking alcohol in the past year and
more than 300 were involved in binge or heavy drinking episodes, this calls for
action and support of everyone across the community,” said Mrs. West-Dacres.

She is calling on parents, older
brothers and sisters, and other adults to discourage young people from
drinking. “We must set a good example in our own drinking habits. If you –
adults – drink, do so in moderation,” she said.

Alcohol can contribute to problems
with young people: underachievement at school, trouble at home and criminal
activity, she added.

The National Drug Council will also
be distributing brochures that focus on alcohol and its effects.

The council will carry out another
survey of drug and alcohol use among Cayman’s young population next week, the
results of which will be released later this year, Mrs. West-Dacres said.

For further information, contact
the council at 949-9000, email or visit