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Drunken Nights Out - a new approach

On 22/11/13 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

Drinkaware held a brainstorming session this week on ‘Drunken Nights Out’ which brought together representatives from the Home Office, the police, the drinks industry, retailers, media and the creative industries to discuss the issues and generate new ideas to reduce harm resulting from binge drinking and public drunkenness in the night time economy.

The event followed on from a call for evidence on binge drinking as part of a research report that Drinkaware have commissioned to look at the problems and potential solutions.

It was quite refreshing to be at an event where people assumed that retailers are responsible and want to work in partnership to tackle problems in the night time economy. All too often nationally and in the media there is an assumption that pubs and bars seek to promote irresponsible behaviour. It can be extremely frustrating to go to meetings or read articles that seem to assume that the alcohol industry wants people to get drunk and behave badly. As any good licensee will tell you they want their pub to be open and welcoming to all and not have potential customers put off by drunken and offensive behaviour.

There were good discussions and ideas around dis-incentivising bad behaviour and encouraging young people to know their limits. One suggestion was to give out bananas outside clubs as people feel too silly to get into fights with a banana in their hand!

However, for me by far the most interesting part of the day was the recognition that for a relatively small number of young people the experience of going out at night was all about going over their limits and breaking the rules and therefore such initiatives may have little effect. A lot of people like to socialise and have a few drinks and some might even overindulge once in a while but the specific intention to go out and get drunk as the aim not a potential consequence of an evening seems to be a very different phenomenon.

Not a new observation by any means but a key question still seems to be why these young people felt they couldn’t get the same enjoyment and experiences in any other way and how to convince them otherwise?

It remains very important to keep these things in context and remember that national trends are all going in the right direction with overall alcohol consumption down 16% since 2004 and alcohol related crime down 23% since 2003. ‘Binge drinking’ has fallen dramatically for both men and women since 2005 – although the current definition of binge drinking (more than 8 units per day for men, and 6 for women) does not really fit with the type of drinking patterns that the day was attempting to address. It will be difficult to come up with the right solutions whilst Government and others are measuring and labelling something completely different.

It is also important to remember that the vast majority drink responsibly and therefore policies and legislation shouldn’t seek to limit or restrict enjoyment for all.

However, this remains an important issue to tackle and there were some interesting themes from the day which will need developing, not least how to influence individual behaviours alongside partnership working within communities to promote a safe and social night time economy.


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