AN important breakthrough has been made in the campaign to change young people’s attitudes to alcohol.
It came recently when the Federal Ministers for Sport and Mental Health announced that the Government would sponsor 12 national sports to promote anti-binge drinking messages, with the proviso that they would refuse alcohol sponsorship.
This is a massive step forward in helping to turn around the culture of drinking to get drunk.
Changing the binge drinking culture will take time and needs a comprehensive approach – including measures to influence price, access and public education .
But public health advances generally come in bite-size chunks and we should welcome and savour any progress that we can get.
Some high-profile sports – particularly AFL, cricket and NRL – are staying with their alcohol sponsors, so our children will still see many of their sporting idols as mobile billboards for alcohol.
Similarly, they will continue to see racing cars promoting alcoholic products, when alcohol is one product that above all should not be associated with driving.
But we should give credit where it is due. This initiative will help to make a real dent in the alcohol industry’s dominance of national sports.
Sporting idols from soccer, netball, basketball, the athletics track and the swimming pool will be promoting the message our youngsters need to hear – that binge drinking should not be part of the youth culture.
There is a long way to go and there will no doubt be continuing resistance from some sports and sports administrators who cannot see further than the end of a dollar bill.
But this is a good and important start and all involved deserve praise for a move that associates our sporting heroes with healthy messages, not with promotion of a product that causes so much harm in the community.
Professor Daube is the Director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth