Binge drinking scare tactics are failing, study finds
Published:  12 May, 2008

Shock adverts used by the government to highlight the dangers of excess drinking have little effect on young people, a new study says.

Policy makers should accept that young people sometimes go out to get drunk and will exceed guidelines on daily alcohol intake, say researchers at the University of Bath.

Their two-and-a-half year study, which will be presented at a conference on health and young people in London this Wednesday, questions government and industry tactics to combat excess drinking.

It also comes a week before ministers launch a £10m campaign to cut confusion about the number of units in alcoholic drinks.

Research team member Dr Andrew Bengry-Howell told OLN on Monday: “Young people talk about drinking in terms of fun. Focusing on harm doesn’t resonate with them.”

He blamed the alcohol industry for sending young people a “dual message”, still using promotions and marketing to encourage drinking while also telling them to cut back. The Bath team spoke to 89 young people in a series of focus groups across the west midlands and south-west of England.

Helen Conibear, editorial director of Alcohol In Moderation, agreed that scare tactics made “people switch off”.

Adverts on excess drinking should focus more on day-to-day situations. Warning young people about liver cirrhosis in the future was often less effective than “talking about things that affect their lives [now], like getting your mobile phone stolen”.

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