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Mongan, Deirdre (2011) Combating underage alcohol abuse through sport. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 36, Winter 2010, pp. 13-14.

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A recent report from the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Sport, Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs1 examines alcohol use and its harmful effects among young people and considers how sport might be used to address this problem. A substantial proportion of young Irish people drink alcohol. The 2006 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study survey found that 1 in 5 16-year-olds were weekly drinkers, half reported having ever been drunk and 1 in 7 had been drunk at least 10 times, with rates of consumption and drunkenness increasing with each year of age.2 Using figures from a 2006 study by the Office of Tobacco Control3 we can estimate that 12–17-year-olds in Ireland spend €144,056,552 per year on alcohol.  

According to the Joint Committee’s report, sport is integral to a healthy lifestyle; it is an outlet for all age groups and can provide physical and mental benefits to participants, improving their life expectancy, quality of life and mental health. Urging that society ‘must utilise every opportunity to take advantage of the positive impact of sporting activities to offer an alternative to underage drinking’, the report recommends the following actions:
 
·         Actively increase the participation level of young people in sport.
·         Obtain the support and involvement of young people and those most at risk for initiatives aimed at tackling underage drinking.
·         Encourage the network of Local Sports Partnerships to engage with young people, schools, and sporting organisations on a local level in promoting alcohol-free policies for local clubs and organisations. 
·         Provide alcohol-free and affordable sporting facilities for young people where they can go at night and engage in sports activities of their choice. Consult with young people on what these facilities should provide and involve them in their management.
·         Develop the physical education syllabus and sporting activities within schools, to encourage physical activity among young people. Increase the number of qualified physical education teachers and ensure that all students receive a minimum of two hours physical education per week.
·         Provide exchequer and lottery funding for alcohol-free sports within defined criteria.
·         Examine the feasibility of phasing out, in as short a time as possible alcohol sponsorship of sport.
 
The report states that the issue of underage drinking and the attitudes which young people hold towards alcohol must be addressed. It claims that Irish society continues to demonstrate a worrying ambivalence in its attitude towards alcohol and that this hinders the many positive initiatives aimed at combating the problems associated with underage drinking. It concludes that using sport as a means to tackle underage alcohol use is just one part of the solution; it is also necessary to introduce policy measures which deal with overall alcohol consumption in Ireland. 
 
 

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